New Delhi: The Supreme Court upheld recommendations made by the Justice Majithia wage board hiking salaries for journalists and non-journalists in print media on Friday and dismissed challenges filed by the managements of various newspapers.
“We hold that the recommendations of the wage boards are valid in law, based on genuine and acceptable considerations and there is no valid ground for interference under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. Consequently, all the writ petitions are dismissed with no order as to costs,” said the apex court.
The petitioners included Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd (publisher of The Times of India), ABP Pvt. Ltd (publisher of Anandabazar Patrika) and the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), among others.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam held that, “The wages as revised/determined shall be payable from 11.11.2011 when the government of India notified the recommendations of the Majithia wage boards. All the arrears up to March 2014 shall be paid to all eligible persons in four equal instalments within a period of one year from today and continue to pay the revised wages from April 2014 onwards.”
The petitioners had challenged the wage board recommendations on account of constitutional invalidity; improper constitution of the wage board; irregularity in the procedure adopted by Majithia wage board; and since it overlooked the relevant aspects and considered extraneous factors while drafting the recommendations.
However the court said it was fully satisfied with the way the wage board proceedings had been conducted.
“We are fully satisfied that the Wage Boards proceedings had been conducted and carried out in a legitimate approach and no decision of the Wage Board is perceived to having been taken unilaterally or arbitrarily...we find no irregularity in the procedure adopted by the impugned Wage Boards,” the court ruled.
Top newspapers criticized the judgement.
“It would cripple most newspapers and drive them out of business,” said N. Ravi, editor -in-chief at The Hindu. “The media space will shrink as print media will be hit hard.” The Hindu has a little over 3,000 employees in the country out of which 95% are under the wage board.
“It’s a ridiculous judgement. Is there anything like a print journalist now? Are non-journalists in this field any different from other industries? Is print not collapsing all over the world? Why is print being singled out, even defence doesn’t have a wage board. The judges are out of sync with what’s happening in the outside world,” said another senior executive at a leading English daily who asked not to be identified.
Kasturi and Sons Ltd , the publisher of The Hindu and The Hindu BusinessLine , had analysed the financial impact of the wage board proposals in an earlier Mint story published in September 2011. If implemented, it would add roughly Rs.100 crore a year to the company’s wage bill, that story said. Meanwhile, D.D. Purkayastha, chief executive of ABP, and Rajiv Verma, chief executive of HT Media Ltd, declined to comment without seeing the fine print of the order.
Under the Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, the Union government through the ministry of labour in November 2011 notified recommendations increasing the salaries paid to all staff.
The latest Majithia wage board recommended that salaries be increased, in some cases to 200% of prevailing levels, causing an uproar from publishers and prompting many newspaper firms to challenge the implementation of the wage board in the Supreme Court.
The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) welcomed the judgement. “It is a step in the right direction. We hope that the INS and all other news publications are helpful in implementing this judgement. We call for vigilance by all state unions for the same,” said S.K Pandey, general secretary of DUJ.