By Sharvari Lohakare
Maharashtra Union of Working Journalists (MUWJ) AND Nagpur Union of Working Journalists (NUWJ) filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the ‘illegal and arbitrary’ actions of newspapers/ employers to lay off, force salary cuts on journalists/non-journalist employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre, the State and ten different media groups after hearing the PIL.
The Division bench of Justice SB Shukre and Justice AS Kilore heard the PIL which sought proper directions to media groups to stop laying off employees or cutting their salaries. The court issued notices to all respondents, returnable in four weeks. The petitioners have filed against Indian Newspaper Society, Vidarbha Daily Newspapers, Lokmat Media, Times of India/Maharashtra Times, Dainik Bhaskar, Sakal Media, Indian Express/Lok Satta, Tarun Bharat, Nav Bharat Media Group, Deshonnati Group and Punya Nagari as respondents in the matter along with Union of India and State of Maharashtra.
For MUWJ & NUWJ Advocates Shreerang Bhandarkar and Maneesh Shukla respectively argued. Additional Solicitor General UM Aurangabadkar appeared on behalf of the Union and SY Deopujari for the State.
The petition stated that the respondents ignored the prime minister’s appeal to not deprive employees of their livelihoods in such times and also the Labour Ministry’s advisory dated March. Despite all of these guidelines, the concerned journalists were forced to sustain steep wage cuts and accept changes in condition of service. The PIL also mentioned that the management of these newspapers are threatening the employees of termination, transfer to remote places etc.
Petitioners have also stated specific instances of layoffs and salary cuts. The PIL contended that this is ‘inhuman and illegal’ and is a violation of guaranteed rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The newspapers acted contrary to the statutory framework provided by the Working Journalists Act of 1955 and Majithia Wage Board, petitioners argued.