New Delhi, April 27: The Supreme Court Monday issued a notice on a petition filed against several media organisations’ decision to lay off employees or force them to take pay cuts during the nationwide lockdown.
The notice seeks response from the central government, the Indian Newspaper Society and the News Broadcasters’ Association, The Print reported.
A bench comprising Justices N.V. Ramana, S.K. Kaul and B.R. Gavai asserted that the petition, jointly filed by the National Alliance of Journalists, the Delhi Union of Journalists and the BrihanMumbai Union of Journalists, raises “some serious issues”, on which a hearing is required.
The court said: “Other unions are also saying this. The question is, if business does not start, how long will people sustain?”
The petition accuses employers in the media industry of meting out “inhuman and illegal treatment” to their employees. It refers to advisories issued by the central government as well as appeals by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not terminate services or reduce wages of the employees.
The petition then submits that despite these advisories, the media industry has imposed layoffs and pay cuts “with impunity”.
“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,” it contends.
The plea goes on to list six such instances — The Indian Express asking staff to take salary cuts, News Nation terminating services of 16 employees of its English digital team, The Times of India sacking its entire Sunday magazine team, The Quint asking 45 members of its team to go on leave without pay, and Bloomberg Quint indicating steep salary cuts for the month of April.
The petition contends that such “arbitrary actions” by media houses place journalists in a “precarious situation”, and also have a “pernicious effect on the media sector”, hampering the “media’s ability to perform its functions in the democratic set up”.
It then demands that all the termination notices, resignations that have been sought, reductions in wages and directions to go on leave without pay — issued after the lockdown — be suspended with immediate effect.