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NUJ-Highlights of SC verdict
Apex Court says Employers
“cannot be allowed
To take advantage of their
own wrongs”
• NUJ(I) lists highlights of the SC verdict
on wage board award petition by
Newspaper industry managements
• (7 pages, 2142 words )
• 1.In dismissing the plethora of petitions filed by
different newspaper and news agency
managements in the Supreme Court against the
Government notification of November 2011
accepting the bulk of the recommendations of
the two wage boards headed by Justice (Retd.)
Majithia, the apex court found that the
employers did not provide the data about their
finances asked for by the Boards.
• Having denied the Boards the data
despite repeated calls to give it, the
industry managements “cannot be
allowed to take advantage of their own
wrong and impugn the recommendations
of the Wage Boards as not being based on
their data when they eluded to submit the
said data in the first place”.
• 1.1 This is one of the severe expose’ of the tactics
adopted by NP managements that the Hon’ble
Supreme Court’s verdict reveals to “elude” the
Boards and then complain about the
recommendations being a denial of natural justice
to them. The National Union of Journalists (India)
which along with other newspaper employee
federations participated in defending the interests
of the employees in the apex court, has culled out
major findings of the court regarding the claims
that the management petitioners made before the
• 1.2 NUJ(I) members must remember that the
managements not only lined up 12 top senior
advocates practicing in the court to argue
their case, they also sought to prolong the
proceedings by coming to the court one by
one and then forcing adjournment of
hearings. The case filed on……. had to be
moved from one Bench of the court to
another for two years and ultimately was
decided by a three judge Bench headed by
the Chief Justice himself.
• 1.3 Besides Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, the other
judges who constituted the Bench were Justice
Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.K. Singh. The Bench
unanimously rejected all the claims made by the
battery of top lawyers fielded by the
managements. “We hold the recommendations of
the wage board are valid, based on genuine and
acceptable considerations and there is no valid
ground for interference” (by the court), the Chief
Justice who wrote the unanimous judgment said in
deciding on the managements’ petitions.
• 1.4 The
working journalists and other
employees unions including the NUJ(I) were
represented in the court by senior advocate
and noted human rights champion Mr. Colin
Gonzalves. The unions fought under the
banner of the Confederation of All Unions
and were ably and determinately led by Mr.
M. S. Yadav and his team from the PTI
Federation. Mr. Yadav is the General
Secretary of the Confederation also.
From the NUJ(I) side, Dr. N. K. Trikha was a
member of the Majithia Wage Board and the team
arguing the case before the Board was led by our past
president Mr. Rajendra Prabhu and consisted of (late)
M. D. Gangwar, Mr. Hari Om, Mr. Ashok Malik with
assistance from several other members and state units
and the office staff of the NUJ(I). Mr. Ravi
Meenakshisundaram in Chennai provided legal help.
NUJ(I) closely worked with Mr. Yadav in defending the
case in the apex court and in assisting senior advocate
Mr. Gonzalves in his most able presentation of the
workers’ case against a battery of senior advocates
employed by the petitioner managements.
1.6All credit to Mr. Gonzalves and Mr. Yadav. Legal assistance in
the court also came from advocate Mr. Pal and advocate and
trade unionist Mr. Parmanand Pandey. In a petition by the
unions during the pendency of the case, on the contempt of
court by the managements, senior advocate Mr. Krishnamani
appeared for our side. We are grateful to him also. Mr.
Bharat Bhushan advocate also assisted our side during the
hearings. The PTI federation bore the major brunt of the
gathering of resource for conducting the case and also for
gaining access to various documents and approaching
government and political party officials to shore up workers’
case. The Government strongly defended the Notification
through the learned Solicitor General Mr. Mohan Parasar
assisted by…..
1.7 The court said the new pay scales and other allowances notified
by the Government on November 11 based on the
recommendations of the Majithia Wage Boards will be
applicable from the date of notification (11 months after the
recommendations were submitted). The arrears should be paid
within a year in four equal installments and “continued to pay
revised wages from April 2014 onwards”. The specific order
calling on the owners to pay the wages as per the new wage
scales etc., leaves no room for the newspaper and news agency
establishments to evade payment on one pretext or the other
which they were resorting to earlier, the NUJ(I) finds. This also
obviates need for any further agitation by the unions to get the
Notified benefits implemented, as non-implementation will be
liable to be interpreted as contempt of the apex court, according
to us.
• 1.8 The NUJ(I) also finds from the verdict that the
managements will have to pay the so called part
time employed journalists the benefits as
recommended by the Board and notified by the
Government. This will considerably provide some
relief to this most suffering section among working
journalists. The NUJ(I), it may be recalled, had
told the Majithia Board that in effect all so called
part timers were actually full time on the vigil for
news break in their area and responsible to file
the story anytime day or night.
Here are the highlights of the
apex court’s verdict:
2. On the vires of the Working Journalists
(conditions of service and other miscellaneous
provisions) Act:
• “In the light of the aforesaid discussion, we
are of the opinion that the challenge as to
the vires of the Act on the premise of its
being ultra vires of the Constitution and
violation of fundamental rights is wholly
On the newspaper industry being
discriminated against:
3. “The contention of the petitioners that
though the newspaper industry may be
growing, the growth of the electronic media
substantiates the very necessity of why a
wage board for working journalists and
other newspaper employees of the
newspaper industry should exist.”
On the complaint about the
improper constitution of the Wage
• “ On behalf of the petitioners it was contented that there
was a defect in the constitution of the wage boards as
Mr. K. M. Sahni and Mr. Prasanna Kumar were not
independent members, this fatally violates the
constitution and proceedings of the wage boards.
“merely because Shri. K. M. Sahni was a part of the
Government that took the decision to set up the wage
boards does not automatically follow that he ceased to
be an “independent” member of the wage boards. We
are satisfied that Shri. K. M. Sahni is an independent
member of the boards and cannot be considered to be
“biased” in any manner.”
• 4.1 On the objections to Mr. Prasanna Kumar’s
membership, the court observed: “It is well
established that mere apprehension of bias is not
enough and there must be cogent evidence
available on record to come to the conclusion. “The
contention of the petitioners alleging bias against
independent members of the wage boards being
biased merely on their past status, is entirely
baseless in law and amounts to imputing motives.
Further the petitioners have nowhere established
or even averred that the independent members
are guilty of legal bias as expressed in (quotes
case law)”
On functioning of the
Wage Boards:
“On perusal of the materials available , we are
satisfied that the wage boards have functioned in
a fully balanced manner. Besides, it is a fact that
the petitioners had challenged the constitution of
the wage boards before the High Court of Delhi;
admittedly the High Court declined to grant
interim relief…….It is also pertinent to take note of
the fact that the petitioners have opted for
challenging the independence of the nominated
recommendations of the wage boards were
notified by the Central Government……”
6. ON irregularity of procedure
• Commenting on the managements’ complaint that
the Majithia boards prepared their report “In a hasty
manner and subsequently the recommendations have
been accepted by the Central Govt. without proper
hearing or affording opportunity to all stakeholders….
”, the court noted the various opportunities given to
the employers as well as their refusal to provide the
called for data and said:
• “We are of the view that the petitioners cannot be
allowed to take advantage of their own wrong and
impugn the recommendations of the wage boards as
not being based on their data when they eluded to
submit the said data in the first place.”
7.On the allegation of wrong procedure and lack
of independent functioning of the boards:
• “After going through the record of
and various written
communications , we are fully satisfied
that the wage boards’ proceedings have
been conducted and carried out in a
legitimate approach and no decision of
the wage boards is perceived to have been
taken unilaterally or arbitrarily………..we
find no irregularity in the procedure
adopted by the impugned wage boards.”
On extraneous factors
and Capacity to Pay:
8. “After perusing the relevant documents we
are satisfied that comprehensive and
detailed study has been carried out by the
wage boards by collecting all the relevant
material information for the purpose of
wage revision. The recommendations are
arrived at after verifying the pros and cons of
various methods in the process and principles
of wage revision in the modern era. It cannot
be held that the wage structure
recommended by the Majithia wage boards
is unreasonable.”
On the objections regarding News
Agencies Wage Revision:
9. Noting the version given by the respondents ( govt.
and PTI union and other federations) that the
question of capacity to pay of the news agencies was
separately considered the court observed:“(the court’s) interference is allowed to a
limited extent to examine the question as
to whether the wage board has
considered the capacity to pay of the
news agencies.
It would be inapposite
for the court to question the decision of
the specialized board on merits when the
board was constituted for this sole
On the objections to variable pay and
other concepts in the recommendations:
10. The managements had characterized the concept
of variable pay as “totally unreasonable ,
irrational and places extra and unnecessary
burden on the newspaper establishments.” They
also alleged that “there was complete nonapplication of mind to insert the so-called
variable pay concept.”
The respondents (the unions) had pointed out
that this variable pay concept was not new and
was subsumed in the Manisana Wage Board
recommendations; only the terminology differed.
The court observed:• “We have carefully scrutinized all the details. It is clear that
the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission had NOT
been blindly imported/ relied upon by the wage board. The
concept of “variable pay” contained in the Sixth Central Pay
Commission has been incorporated into the wage board
recommendations only to ensure that the wages of the
newspaper employees are at par with the employees
working in the other government sectors. Such incorporation
was made by the Majithia wage board after careful
consideration, in order to ensure equitable treatment to
employees of the newspaper establishments and was well
within its rights to do so.”
The court observed:• The court also justified
grant of 100 per cent
rejecting contention of the
reference to the decision
before 1995 is “irrelevant”.
Other issues:
11. On the charge of non- incorporation of regional
differences in the emoluments, the court held that
it was “satisfied” the board had followed certain
well laid down principles and norms” in its
• On the charge that the board had in
recommending higher pay scale after the top rung
had been reached it was going into promotion
that was beyond its scope, the court held that this
was not so and was only a matter of prioritization
“after completion of certain number of years.”
Operative part
12. In view of all these the court held “that
the recommendations of the wage boards
are valid in law, based on genuine and
acceptable considerations and there is no
valid ground for interference under Article
32 of the Constitution of India.”. After
“dismissing with no order on costs” the
managements, the court observed:-
The Court Observed:• “The wages as revised/determined shall be
payable from 11. 11. 2011” (that is, the date
of notification which was 11 months after
the boards gave their report). All the
arrears up to March 2014 shall be paid to
all eligible persons in four equal
installments within a period of a year
from today and continue to pay the
revised wages from April 2014 onwards.”