Striking work now non-bailable offence in Karnataka

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Belgaum (Karnataka,): A new law in Karnataka makes striking essential work by government servants a non-bailable offence facilitating arrest without a warrant.

“The amended Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) has a provision to book a non-bailable case against government servants in-charge of essential services striking work,” Law and Parliamentary Minister T. B. Jayachandra told the assembly before the bill was passed Wednesday amid protests by the opposition members.

The amended law also gives police power to arrest government servants on illegal strike without a warrant.

Opposition parties, including the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), however, urged the ruling Congress to withdraw the amendment bill, as it gives police sweeping powers to arrest officials without a court warrant.

Allaying fears, Jayachandra told opposition lawmakers that the provision to arrest without a warrant in the amended Act would be used in rarest of rare cases with the decision taken at the highest executive level.

“It is not against labour unions. The Act will be invoked only in the case of essential services like water supply, electricity, transport and healthcare are affected due to strike by the government staff,” he clarified.

If arrested, the striking staff will face one-year imprisonment or a fine of Rs.5,000 or both in case of those who instigate the strike.

The definition under the amended ESMA includes any service connected with production, generation, storage, transmission, supply or distribution of water or electricity and any transportation service for carrying passengers or goods by motor vehicles.

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