Expressing its disappointment at the verdict pronounced by the Supreme Court (SC), the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ) insisted that their objective was to get the erring newspaper groups punished or fined. “Nothing (of such sort) happened,” said IFWJ Working President K Vikram Rao, weeks after the SC dismissed the contempt petition on June 19. Instead of benefitting the employees, the legal battle which lasted for over two years led to financial gains for the lawyers, claimed Rao. According to him, lakhs of rupees were spent on the litigation with advocate Parmanand Pandey alone charging Rs 80 lakh for representing the employees.
The amount was raised through individual contributions in the range of Rs 25,000–30,000 from over 300 persons belonging to various states. Despite shelling out a huge amount of money, the aggrieved employees did not get any immediate economic relief which has left them entirely dejected. Nevertheless, the court upheld the recommendations of the Justice Majithia Wage Boards and gave the newspaper concerns another opportunity to award the arrears in full to both the permanent and contractual employees.
Even then the IFWJ is not pacified. “We are concerned with the implementation of the recommendations,” added Rao, mentioning that the court could have set out a timeline of six months which it refrained from doing. Previously, a three-judge SC bench led by the then Chief Justice P Sathasivam had also upheld the validity of the wage boards’ proposals in February 2014. At the moment, IFWJ’s biggest grievance is the fact that employees will have to approach the labour courts to get their dues as per the direction of the SC. The multiple cases will be heard once again right from the very beginning either individually or in groups.
Therefore, the entire matter is back to square one in a way. Having faced numerous obstacles in the past, Rao feared that the employees will begin to lose their morale in the days to come. The case which was recently set aside by a division bench of the SC headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi revolved around 83 petitions filed by persons from across the country alleging non-implementation of the Justice Majithia Wage Boards. Established by the Labour Ministry in 2007, the recommendations were accepted by the Government of India in 2011.