A division bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, reserved its judgement on May 3 in a contempt case against newspaper groups. It has been the contention of various newspaper employee unions, including the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ), that non-implementation of Justice Majithia Wage Boards’ recommendations by print media companies amounted to contempt of court. Representing a cross section of newspaper employees, IFWJ pleaded the court to pronounce its judgement at the earliest.
Previously, counsels appearing on behalf of large newspaper groups argued that the implementation of Justice Majithia Wage Boards’ recommendations was beyond their paying capacity. Print media companies have repeatedly noted that any such action will cripple newspaper finances and adversely affect the industry. Simultaneously, certain reports prepared by state governments were presented before the court by the management of newspapers claiming that the recommendations have been given their due effect.
However, this assertion was repudiated by the employee unions. Speaking to exchange4media, IFWJ President K Vikram Rao termed the reports as “bogus”, which were bereft of the reality. “We challenged them in court and said that they were lying. We also produced the affidavits of workers,” said Rao. Established during the first tenure of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2007, the recommendations of Justice Majithia Wage Boards were accepted by the union cabinet four years later.
The notification concerning the same was published in the Gazette of India on November 11, 2011. Thereafter, the newspaper employee unions were forced to approach the court after their salaries were not revised as instructed by the government. In February 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the recommendations directing the newspaper companies to act accordingly. The judgement in the contempt plea could be the final chapter in what has been a long-drawn battle between newspaper proprietors and employees.