As the imminent ‘transfer’ of ordnance factories to newly created public sector undertakings (PSUs) loom large over defence employees, a recognised staff federation on Thursday wrote to the Centre informing it that the decision to corporatise the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) stands “challenged” in the Madras High Court (HC).
The letter, addressed to the secretary, Department of Defence Production (DDP), was written a day after the HC issued a notice to the Centre following a writ petition challenging OFBs' corporatisation was filed with the court.
In June, the Narendra Modi government had approved a plan to corporatise the 246-year-old OFB, an umbrella body that oversees the 41 ordnance factories across the country. As per the Cabinet decision, the board will be converted into seven new defence PSUs. Engaged in defence equipment manufacturing, the OFB currently operates as a government department under the control of DDP, which is administered by the ministry of defence (MoD).
Challenging the decision, a petition was filed by the All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) in the Madras HC earlier this month.
On Thursday, Justice R. Mahadevan issued a notice to the Centre which was received by the additional solicitor general, who asked for two weeks’ time to file a counter submission. The next date of hearing is September 30.
Subsequently, the AIDEF sent the letter, which read: “We understand that the government of India is going to notify the appointed date w.e.f. 01/10/2021 for the newly created 7 DPSUs (ordnance factories) and transfer all the 76,000 employees of the ordnance factories to the above corporations from the date onwards on deemed deputation. In this regard, we would like to inform you that we have challenged the decision of corporatisation of ordnance factories.”
On Thursday, the Delhi HC too issued a notice to the Centre over another writ petition filed by the AIDEF challenging the Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021. Passed in the recently concluded Monsoon Session, the Bill empowers the Centre to issue an order for prohibiting strikes by employees involved in production of defence equipment, services and operation or maintenance of any industrial establishment connected with the military as well as those employed in repair and maintenance of defence products.
The Bill replaced the EDS Ordinance introduced by the Centre after the three recognised defence employees federations—AIDEF, Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation and the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh—had announced an indefinite strike against the corporatisation of the OFB. The next date of hearing is November 16.