Essential Services Maintenance Act

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Essential Services Maintenance Act
Emblem of India.svg
An Act to provide for the maintenance of certain essential services and the normal life of the community.
Citation Act No. 59 of 1968
Territorial extent Whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir
Enacted by Parliament of India
essential service, strike
Status: In force

The Essential Services Maintenance (ESMA) is an act of Parliament of India which was established to ensure the delivery of certain services, which if obstructed would affect the normal life of the people.[1] This include services like public transport (bus services), health services (doctors and hospitals).[2][3] The ESMA is a central law, that is, a law made by the Parliament of India; but the discretion on the execution of it mostly lies with the State governments. Each state in the union of India, hence has a separate state Essential Services Maintenance Act with slight variations from the central law in its provisions. This freedom is accorded by the central law itself. Although it is a very powerful law,[according to whom?] its execution rests entirely on the discretion of the State government. The law has seen little use in India, with many strikes by public transport providers or staff, doctors or Government employees, being continued for weeks without ESMA being invoked by the Union Government or the State Government. There have been instances of citizens approaching courts for implementation of ESMA, and the executive being forced by court orders to declare ESMA over a strike and the strikes being called off overnight.[4]


The law presently in effect is the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1968. But it has a long history of evolution through which it came into the shape it is in right now. A shorter law by the same name existed in 1952, which came to replace the 'Ordinance XI' of 1941.[5]

State laws[edit]

Andhra Pradesh[edit]

The law in effect is the Andhra Pradesh Essential Services Maintenance Act when of 1971.[4]


The Kerala Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1994. This is the law in effect in the state of Kerala since 1994. As is the general rule, it has slight variations in the provisions of the law from the central act. What existed before this act was the Kerala Essential Services Maintenance Ordinance of 1993.[6][7]


In Rajasthan this law is known as RESMA (Rajasthan Essential Services Maintenance Act).


The Government of Karnataka enacted Karnataka Essential Services Maintenance Act in 1994[8] and was in force since 16 April 1994. The life of the act was ten years as per section 1(3) and it lapsed on 15 April 2004.[9] The Government of Karnataka has threatened to invoke the act multiple times since then,[10][11] even though the act had lapsed in 2004. The Government of Karnataka has planned to reintroduce ESMA with Karnataka Essential Services Maintenance Bill, 2013 which will be tabled in the winter session of the legislature.[8]

Esma has been re-introduced in Karnataka effective from 09/06/2015. A gazette notification said..


In Maharashtra ESMA act came into force on 2 August 2012.

See also[edit]


DTC drivers' strike: Delhi government imposes ESMA[12][13]

Delhi govt imposes ESMA on doctors on strike. Step was taken as the doctors continued there strike even after government agreed to all their demands. Doctors call off strike hours after AAP govt imposes ESMA.