ESMA bill passed in Assembly

ESMA bill passed in Assembly

ESMA bill passed in Assembly

The ruling party managed to get the Karnataka Essential Services Maintenance Bill, 2013 passed in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, despite stiff resistance from Opposition parties and a Congress member.

The bill provides for police to arrest without warrant a person who violated the provisions under the Act.

Piloting the bill, Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy said the bill is on the lines adopted by the Centre and many other states. There’s hardly any difference between the old law, which had lapsed and the new law. The only addition made is to empower police to arrest without warrant. “Any police officer may arrest without warrant any person who is reasonably suspected of having committed any offence under the Act,” he said. It is considered necessary to prohibit refusal to work in certain essential services, including production, generation, storage, transmission, supply or distribution of water or electricity, transport service for passengers or goods and any other service or employment.

He said any person who commences a strike or continues to strike or takes part in any strike which is illegal in essential services, shall on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for one year or imposed fine up to Rs 5,000 or with both. In addition, any person who instigates or incites any other person to take part in a strike in essential services, can be punished with imprisonment up to one year and face a penalty of Rs 5,000 or both. Giving financial assistance to such strike will also attract penalty and imprisonment.

Opposition members Jagadish Shettar, H D Kumaraswamy, K G Bopaiah, A Krishnappa, B S Yeddyurappa and N Cheluvarayaswamy among others vehemently argued that striking work can’t be a non-bailable offence. Police could harass people by arresting without warrant. Such act amounts  to suppressing the voice of the people. The provision could be challenged in court of law, they said.

Referring to Section 5 under the Act, Bopaiah said, “the clause to impose penalty is vague because the word used is ‘etc’. A law should have clarity.” Eventually, Law Minister T B Jayachandra agreed to withdraw the word ‘etc’.

Krishnappa, a former president of the government employees’ association, termed the bill as a draconian move to suppress the voice of government employees who at times, are forced to strike work to air their demands.

“The State government employees are paid salary based on 1965 price index. If they strike work demanding better salary, should they be arrested without warrant?” He also tore a copy of the bill.

Yeddyurappa said, “Before coming to the House, I met the Ayush workers who are agitating. Can my action be construed as instigation? The bill should be referred to the joint select committee of the House for a better discussion.”

Joining the issue, former speaker and Congress MLA Ramesh Kumar too opposed certain provisions under the bill. The government must hold talks with workers’ unions too before enacting the law. The globalisation is anti-labour. “Definitely, prima facie the bill is anti-labour,” he said. With the government not ready to withdraw or make amendments, the JD(S) members staged a walkout. The bill was finally passed by the House.

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