The Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Central government on Thursday in response to a petition filed by the All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) challenging the constitutional validity of the Essential Defence Services Act, 2021, It gives the government the authority to declare a facility a “important defence service” and ban strikes in such facilities. (All India Defence Employees Federation vs Union of India).
While issuing notice, A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Amit Bansal made some sharp remarks, noting that the statute in question represents the “will of the people” and asking if the petitioners can go against it.
The petition specifically challenged the constitutionality of Sections 1, 2 (1) (a) and (b), 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17 of the Act, claiming that they are in violation of Articles 14, 19, 21, and 311 of the Constitution.
The Industrial Disputes Act (ID Act) has now been modified to include “critical defence services” in the definition of “public utility services,” according to the petitioner.
The Act grants the government unrestricted ability to label any establishment “vital defence services,” making any participation or support of strikes in such enterprises illegal and punishable by law without recourse to constitutional safeguards.
Even if it is part of a legal right, the petitioner claims that if a strike is a form of demonstration and the strike is nonviolent, it constitutes an inherent Fundamental Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The petitioner contended that only strikes having an obvious and immediate link to the prohibition contained in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution can be banned.
AIDEF’s Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh argued that numerous parts of the Act breached international agreements and treaties, as well as Articles 14, 19 (1) (a) and 19 (1) (c), 21, and 311 of the Indian Constitution. The organization (AIDEF) has announced a strike in 41 ordinance factories throughout the nation, employing over 76,000 people.
He cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in the AK Roy case and went on to clarify how the term “strike” is defined under Section 2(1) (b) of the Industrial Disputes Act.
The court eventually issued notice and set a hearing date on November 16th. Notice has been served to the respondents. Counsel asks for more time to obtain instructions and, if necessary, prepare a rebuttal affidavit. The same is due on November 16, according to the order.