Plea in SC by Journalists Against Lay-off and Wage Cut

A plea has been filed by Indian Newspaper Society and News Broadcasters Association, against a notice issued by the Supreme Court against wage cut and laying off of employees in media industry.

In the month of April, the Supreme Court had issued a notice against the decision of media organizations’ decision to cut salary of employees and lay off employees due to national lockdown amidst COVID19. The notice was issued against Central Government, the News Broadcasters Association, and the Indian Newspaper Society, and has sought a response in this regard.

This comes after central government has issued advisories to not to terminate services of the employees. The petitioners has alleged that due to this decision, employers in the media industry have been engaging in inhuman and illegal treatment to their employees.

INS and NBA, in response to the notice issued by Supreme Court, have said that a writ cannot be issued by the court against them as they do not come under the definition of ‘State’ as given by Article 12 of the Constitution of India. That media industry is a private body, and a writ to enforce fundamental rights by a private body, is not maintainable. The petitioners have also contended that the earlier plea was filed only to seek relief from the private bodies that is INS and NBA and that central government was merely made a party to bring the case under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. And therefore a plea under Article 32 is not maintainable against the media industries.

It also contended that the earlier petitioner have a right to alternate relief under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the Indian Contract Act. That, unless they exhaust their alternate relief available, they cannot claim an extraordinary remedy from INS and NBA.

It further contended that since, all the companies and establishment have different position and factors, a blanket ban to cut salary and to terminate employment, is arbitrary. It argued that under Factories Act, industries having less than100 employees are liberty to enforce lay-offs, closure, and retrenchments without prior permission from the government. 

The added that due to COVID19, print media is on the verge of depletion as Resident Welfare Associations have banned the entries of outsiders in the building, the newspapers are not reaching homes in the bigger cities and therefore advertisement revenue is hitting the rock bottom. They also added that various State and Central government agencies owe money to various media companies, which is around Rs 18,00 crore.

The petitioners have pleaded that COVID19 has impacted the media industry very badly, still no package or measures has been announced by the government for broadcasters. And unless government provides for a suitable policy in this regard, the blanket ban of laying-off employees or cutting their salary is not justified.

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