On April 27, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Union Government, the Indian Newspaper Society and the News Broadcasters’ Association, giving them two weeks’ time to file a reply in response to the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by journalists’ unions against the media organisations who had laid off employees or forced them to take remuneration kickbacks.
The petition, which was filed by the National Alliance of Journalists, Delhi Union of Journalists and the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists, demanded the suspension with immediate effect all terminations, resignations, wage deductions and directions to go on leave without pay that have taken place in the media after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown.
The Supreme Court Bench consisted of Justices N V Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai and senior counsel Colin Gonsalves represented the Petitioner Unions.
The petition had alleged, “In the backdrop of the lockdown, the media industry has affected job losses and wage cuts with impunity. Media houses have summarily shut down, in violation of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Despite the advisories mentioned above and legal provisions that disallow retrenchments, terminations or even suspension and closure of publications without due process, media companies have gone ahead with these measures, unmindful of the fact that in a lockdown of such an incredible magnitude people can barely move out, leave alone go job-hunting.”
In the past few weeks, top English newspapers, including the Indian Express and the Hindustan Times, have reportedly cut the salaries of their staff, while the Times of India, a media giant, has laid off employees. The digital media outlet Quint has sent at least 45 employees on indefinite unpaid leave. The TV channel News Nation has laid off its entire English digital team.
A press release regarding the admitting of the petition by the Supreme Court was released on April 27, which was signed by S.K. Pande, general secretary of NAJ; Indra Kumar Jain, general secretary of BUJ, and Sujata Madhok of DUJ.
Also read: Journalists’ Unions File Petition in SC Against Media Companies, Allege Using Lockdown for Lay-offs, Salary Cuts