Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1981 (ESMA)



This Blog is written by Aadish Jain from Symbiosis Law School, NoidaEdited by Saumya Tripathi.



We all know that how all the governments of the world struggling to control the outbreak of coronavirus, a pandemic situation that has brought a disaster, along with it also impacting the socio-economic viability of the society. The main challenge as of now of the government is that today they have to keep the higher level of understanding between all the forms of civic bodies, corporate sector, and as well as citizens to be prepared for the loss and damages and bring out the cure of it.

In spite of the fact that we have a vigorous legitimate structure including constitutional assurance, the present circumstance has brought the pliability of the lawful system to test by requiring a realignment of laws to contain the spread of the pandemic by organizing life over close to home freedom and simultaneously guaranteeing the proceeded and continuous progression of essential commodities, items, administrations, and services.

In this pandemic situation, the main objective of the government is to implement the lockdown as of social distancing to stop the spread of the virus and keep the people away from it and again to guarantee that in this difficult time like the pandemic situation the nation can navigate to the difficulties by such lockdown and by providing them with the essential goods and services which are for the betterment of the society. And to accomplish such all objectives and to guarantee the supply of necessary goods and services the various states in the country had set up laws like Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (ECA), and Essential Service Maintenance Act, 1981 (ESMA).

On 22 May 2020 amid seeing the situation of Covid-19 The Uttar Pradesh Government has implemented the Essential Service Maintenance Act (ESMA) which bans all the strikes in all departments and corporations under the act for the period of six months. Under the ESMA Act, the Act provides the police with a special right to arrest anybody without a warrant who violates the Act’s provisions. The Act has been invoked by the government after taking all the permissions from Anandiben Patel and a notification regarding the Act has been issued by Mukul Singh, Additional Chief Secretary.

The official notification of the UP government tells that “The Governor is pleased to prohibit, for a period of six months from the date of publication of this notification in the Gazette, strikes in any public service in connection with the affairs of the state of Uttar Pradesh and any service under a corporation owned or controlled by state Government and any service under local authority”.

The ESMA act orders detainment for a term which may extend out to one year, or fine which may extend out to one thousand rupees, or with both, to any individual who instigates or involve in a strike which is unlawful under this Act. Toeing the Centre’s line, the Uttar Pradesh government had a month ago chose to require to put on hold Dearness Allowance (DA) increment for its 16 lakh representatives and employees. The DA increment was due from January 1, 2020. The state government additionally has decided not to pay the DA installments which will be due expected from July 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021.


The Act told that its main significance or the main objective is to the smooth development and movement of those things which are essential for the day to day life of the people of the country. As from the name itself the Act is self-explanatory that is ESMA (Essential Service Maintenance Act) which provides for the maintenance for certain essential services to ensure the betterment and the proper regulation for the normal life of the community. So, as per the Section 2(1)(a) of ESMA of the said act explain the word ‘essential Services’ which tells that “ any postal, telegraph, or telephone services, any railway or transport service, services connected with any major port, armed forces of the union or with the production of goods for any purpose, connected with Defence, sanitation or water supply, hospitals or dispensaries, banking, production, supply or distribution of coal, power, steel or fertilizers, etc. or any other service-connected with matters with respect to which the Parliament has the power to make laws”.

The Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) is compelled to hinder unnecessary or any type of strikes. In case the laborers of any huge division abet or appreciate the strike and the government excuses their solicitations and urges them to end the strike, anyway delegates don’t end their strike then the concerned government makes a move against them under ESMA provisions.


This articulation is bandied about at whatever point there is a significant strike or bandh, so it can be told in the law ESMA by which the administration can conjure to forbidding the striking representatives for declining to work in certain fundamental administrations which is important for the support for the normal life in the nation. In this way, the administrations identified with the open conservancy, sanitation, water gracefully, emergency clinic, or related with the guard of the nation’s security are viewed as a fundamental piece of this any help identified with the Bank is likewise viewed as in ESMA. So, because of the establishment of the law, the representative of these fundamental administrations can’t decline to work or to do extra time as their work is viewed as important for the support of any basic assistance.

So, as we cannot tell that the administration is disregarding the crucial privileges or the rights of the representatives or employees or any workers however according to per se strike isn’t illegal or illicit yet the legislature is engaged to preclude it on the off chance that it feels that the strike is gravely upsetting open life. For that, the administration needs to give a general or unique request to end the strike. Any strike gets unlawful after the death of this request. So, any individual who starts the strike, just as those induce, is at risk for the discipline under this Law.


The Essential Service Maintenance Act, 1981 generally known as ESMA Act it the ACT NO. 40 of 1981 authorized by the parliament. The utilization of this crisis capacity to contain strikes go back to provincial occasions, particularly during the second world war as the pilgrim mentality keeps on enduring. While the legislature lectures discourse and popular government to the private division, it has never endured mechanical activities in the administration segment particularly by the administration workers, and from the hour of Jawaharlal Nehru was in charge. It has in this manner been ever ready to summon ESMA. States like Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu have summoned this law. There are numerous things that occurred by this law in this timeframe yet essentially the legislature never neglects to re-establish the crisis guidelines.

The Act altogether talk about the “fundamental essential services” yet here the question emerges who concludes that what is the essential service or the basic assistance and what is not so here The Freedom of Association of the advisory group of ILO (Indian Labour Organization) characterizes the “essential service” they tell that the “services whose interference would imperil the life, individual security or strength of the entire or part of the populace” are said to be the essential service in this act. The ILO board of trustees has in actuality supported the “essentiality” of services like emergency clinics, power and water flexibly, phone and airport regulation and given a “demonstrative” negative rundown that incorporates oil, ports, ports, banking, instruction, metropolitan, transport, etc.

Be that as it may, the utilization of ESMA in India not just shows uniqueness from the ILO (International Labour Organization) principals yet in addition produce negative results. Now and again the advancement takes puts so after 1968. Along these lines, the ESMA in 1981 which secured the upwards of 16 explicit financial matters exercises. After that in 2005, the Maharashtra government thought of some more exercises identified with it are remembered for the demonstration. Despite the fact that in this all year the ESMA has been used for an assortment of purposes not generally unjustified. Like Political (for an internal emergency, Telangana Struggle), Economics (for example privatization strategies to purportedly contain swelling in 1981) and consumerist (for example guaranteeing the continuous administrations in any division) and furthermore in during pandemic (Covid-19) contemplation direct this guideline.

So, after all these in this circumstance, the inquiry emerges that who ought to characterize essential service the civil servants/political pioneers or in fact educated individuals? The last is important to settle on the educated decisions in light of the fact that remembering any entire enterprises for the essential service  might be not right like the entire Airline ventures are not necessaries to be remembered for the basic help however the airport regulation is a crisis administration, the disturbance of which can jeopardize the human life. While in the Act the Word  “essential service” was defined under the Section 2(1)(a) which tells that “any postal, telegraph or telephone service; any railway service or any other transport service for the carriage of passengers or goods by land, water or air with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws; any service connected with the operation or maintenance of aerodromes, or with the operation, repair or maintenance of aircraft; any service connected with the loading, unloading, movement or storage of goods in any port; any service connected with the clearance of goods or passengers through the customs or with the prevention of smuggling; any service in any mint or security press; any service in any defence establishment of the Government of India; any service in connection with the affairs of the Union, not being a service specified in any of the foregoing sub- clauses; any other service connected with matters with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws and which the Central Government being of opinion that strikes therein would prejudicially affect the maintenance of any public utility service, the public safety or the maintenance of supplies and services necessary for the life of the community or would result in the infliction of grave hardship on the community, may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare to be an essential service for the purposes of this Act”. The meaning of “strike” is further described under Section 2(1)(b). And the penalties of breaking the law or instigating someone to break the law have been described under Section 4 to Section 6. Section 7 of the act tells about the power given to the police to arrest any person on the reasonably suspected ground of having committed any offence to underact without a warrant.


Liladhar Ramchandani & Ors. Petitioners v. Government of NCT of Delhi & Ors.

The petitions are filed for quashing the FIR under section 5/7 of the Haryana Essential Service Maintenance Act 1974. The FIR has been registered due to strike was going on and the government has to enact the ESMA so the hospital management has to withdraw the strike so on the sub sequential basis the FIR has been charged by the police as the power given to the police under the Section 7 of the Essential Service Maintenance Act.


Chainulu (G.Y.N) and Ors, Vs Andhra Pradesh State 

  • The three writ petitions bring up normal issues of law and reality they are discarded by a typical judgment.
  • The wages are deducted by the management by using power.
  • Taking into account the individual disputes, the primary inquiry that emerges for thought is whether the strike is an illicit strike.
  • It is obligatory that a worker will pull out inside about a month and a half before striking or inside fourteen days of giving such notification, whichever is clear.
  • The inquiry is whether the notification given under Section 22 can be understood to be without due notification by the activity of the notice gave under Section 3 of the Essential Services Maintenance Act.
  • When a strike was proclaimed to be illicit by the activity of notice given under Section 3 of the Essential Services Maintenance Act, at that point it’s anything but a due notification, along these lines the principal appendage of stipulation to subsection (2) of Section 9 isn’t fulfilled.
  • It makes correctional outcomes.
  • The Corporation has the option to apply Section 47.
  • The activity taken by the Management in deducting multi-day compensation is unmistakable without the power of law and is without locale.
  • The writ petitions are permitted and the reprimanded orders are suppressed.


These rules have been found with respect to extraordinary rules in the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, the fragile institutional base for work rights, the contracting genuine base of mechanical exercises as far as expert vocation unionism the wake of new present-day and work approaches by the law-making body and the publicizing transmitting from the authoritative methodologies. The ID exhibit draws in the assembly to denies the strikes in the ventures in the ground of the open government help and security and on the specific grounds like pendency of pacification and portray extraordinary strategy of the lead of strikes at any rate in the “open utilities” which could join even material or IT related association.

ESMA laws and rules could hurt the interests of the workers in the confusing portion as they without clear business relationship use “open Space” to lead their fight for their “work issues” and every now and again centers around the state associations which could supportively be brought under these hash codes. The assumption is that the organization needs to rehearse uncommon alarm in calling the emergency rule considering the “institutional Deficits” they could make.









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