Today, we are entering the third day of strike of staff of KSRTC and BMTC. The employees of these public transport corporations are demanding a 35% hike in salary. The Government of Karnataka unwilling to negotiate has brought the entire city to a standstill, but that’s not what all the government can do. The State Government under S.3 of the Karnataka Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2013 can issue an order to declare the strike as illegal and prohibit strikes in essential services, the definition of which includes transportation service for the carriage of passengers or goods by motor vehicles. Thus BMTC and KSRTC quite clearly fall within the ambit of the Act. The Order issued under S.3(1) of the Act can be issued for a maximum period of 1 year or a shorter duration, for a period not exceeding 6 months.

Once Orders under Section 3(1) are imposed, no person employed in any essential service to which the order relates can remain on strike. Further, any strike declared or begun or continued, whether before or after the issue of the order, by any person employed in any such essential service, shall be illegal forthwith. Any employee disobeying the order can be imprisoned for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to ₹5000 or can be penalized by both, on conviction. Further, if any other person instigates or incites or puts in motion some other person to go for such strikes, he/she shall be imprisoned for a term which may extend to one year or a fine shall be levied of ₹5000 or both according to S.5 of the aforementioned Act.

The Act aims to prevent situation such as this and prevents cessation of work by unions employed in any essential service. The employees have disrupted the normal course of work and causing loss of crores of rupees with each day going by. The Government although has been cutting a sorry face before its citizens can act and enforce the provisions under the KESMA Act, 2013 but will the Government just watch?