The Essential Services Maintenance (Assam) Act, 1980

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The Essential Services Maintenance (Assam) Act, 1980 (Act no. 41 of 1980) was assented by President of India on 19th July, 1980 and was enacted with the aim and object to maintain certain essential services and also normal life of the Community in Assam. The Act extends to whole of Sate of Assam. Before passing of this Act, the ordinance named The Essential Services Maintenance (Assam) Ordinance, 1980 was promulgated. The laws relating to essential services maintenance have little long historical perspective initiated with the shorter law with the similar name enacted in the year 1952 prior to which an Ordinance was promulgated in the year 1941.

Section 2 of the Act defines certain important terminologies used and provided under the Act for its better interpretation with meaning intended to be given by Legislature. The examples of such terms defined under the Act are, Essential Service, Strike, etc. The Section in its various sub clauses to clause (b) of Section 2 elaborates the services to be called essential services. Section 3 of the Act empowers State Government of Assam to make order prohibiting Strikes in the State in any essential services about which such order shall provide for. Further, sub Sections provides for procedure of implementing and duration of orders made under this Section.

Persons being employees initiating illegal Strikes are liable to be dismissed under Section 4 of the Act by holding disciplinary action against such persons as per provision of this Act. Moreover, Section 5 of the Act provided for penal action against such person engaged in illegal Strikes, which is included with imprisonment or fine, or even with both imprisonment and fine. Further, Section 6 of the Act makes provisions against instigation as to taking part in such illegal strike, where persons engaged should be punished with imprisonment and fine as above but for different terms and amount. Similarly, if any person gives financial assistance to commence or running of such illegal strike, then such person should also be punished as per penal provisions of Section 7 of the Act.

Section 8 deals with power of police authority who can arrest person engaging in such illegal strike its running or commencement. Such arrest can be done without warrant. This provisions is having overriding effect over the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 9 of the Act says about summary trial of offences. As per section 10 of the Act the provisions of The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 or provisions of any other law, which are not consistent with the provision of this Act, should not survive when provisions of this Act is having applicability.

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The Essential Services Maintenance (Assam) Ordinance, 1980 promulgated before enacted this Act, should be repealed after the commencement of this Act as per Section 11 of the Act. The Act is very much similar to the Act of 1968 namely, The Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1968 (Act No. 59 of 1968) dated 28th December, 1968 which being Central Act, extends to whole Indian but not to State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Act of 1968 was enacted with provisions to take back its effect after expiry of three years of its commencement. But actions taken under that Act should have effect even if the Act was taken back of effect.

As to implementation of laws relating to Essential Services Maintenance in the Country the example can be given of strikes in GENCO, Hyderabad. In this case the State Government issued government order prohibiting strikes in all services Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corporation Ltd. for certain months under the provisions of State Law namely, Andhra Pradesh Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1971 (Act No. 20 of 1971)

The Act was amended in the next year of its enactment i.e. in the year 1981 to correct and provide for certain important changes in the Act. The Amending Act known as ‘The Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1981 and Section 13 therein provides for amends this Act of 1980. This Amending Act of 1981 has its applicability and extension over all India but not over State of Jammu and Kashmir. This Amending Act also makes very much similar provisions as that of provided under the Act of 1980.

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by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan.