Wage board for scribes challenged

The petitioner in the writ has sought that The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, be declared illegal, null and void and ultra vires the Constitution of India.

It has also pleaded the apex court to declare the wage board ultra vires this 1955 Act besides declaring Majithia wage board award and its recommendations unconstitutional and illegal.

The writ pointed out that no other industrial establishment of national importance was regulated in this form and required to pay wages and other elements on the basis of a wage board and that this amounts to hostile discrimination.

It was submitted in the petition that Article 19 (1) (a) guarantees the freedom of the press, that is, freedom of owners to carry on their duties including the dissemination of information without onerous and prohibitive restrictions.

The 1955 Act amounts to a gross violation of the petitioners' right to carry on a newspaper business which is a basic fundamental right, guaranteed under the Constitution of India, the petitioner contended.

It underscores that Majithia wage board's recommendations were beyond its jurisdiction as it has dealt with issues like retirement, pension and assured promotion and there was hence a serious jurisdictional error which would vitiate such recommendations
Admitting the petition, the Supreme Court, subsequently, issued notice to the Centre and various unions of wage board employees, allowing the petitioner liberty to mention before the vacation court if it becomes imperative.  

Meanwhile, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has warned that many newspapers will have to shut down if the recommendations of the Justice Majithia wage board report are accepted.

“What to say of small and medium newspaper establishments who have no capacity to pay, some of leading newspaper groups too would find it difficult to implement and would suffer heavy losses. It would not only result in their inability to pay but also result in suspension of activities,” it said.

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