Supreme Court notice on PIL against media companies for sacking employees

If the business does not start, how long will people sustain,’ the apex court observed.

MUMBAI: The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice on a petition filed against multiple media organisations, which have retrenched, laid off or forced their employees to take a pay cut on the back of the nation-wide lockdown to check on the spread of novel Covid-2019 pandemic.

A bench comprising justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai has sought responses from the central government, the India Newspapers Society and the News Broadcasters Association while expressing concern over the alleged termination of the employees of media organisations.

“Some serious issues have been raised and it requires a hearing, moreover, the petitioners have not approached any other authority for the same reliefs,” observed the apex court. “Other unions also say the same thing, the question is, if the business does not start, how long will people sustain?”

The petition filed by National Alliance Of Journalists, Delhi Union Of Journalists, and BrihanMumbai Union Of Journalists has accused media organisations of inhuman and illegal treatment being meted out by employers to their employees and workers in the media sector.

The petition reads: “The employers (news channels, print media including news websites and digital news platforms) have issued termination notices, imposing steep wage cuts unilaterally, sending workers and employees on indefinite unpaid leave, and so on, taking the excuse of the nation-wide lockdown imposed in light of the spread of Covid-2019.”  

The petition signed by NAJ president SK Pande, BUJ general-secretary Indra Kumar Jain, and DUJ general secretary Sujata Madhok has sought the suspension of all orders of termination, salary cuts or resignations asked from employees during the period of the lockdown.

“Despite the appeals made by the prime minister of India and advisories issued by the government of India to not terminate services or reduce employees’ wages, several employers/establishments in the newspaper and media sector have taken unilateral knee-jerk decisions to terminate services, reduce wages and also send employees on forced indefinite unpaid leave,” reads the petition.

The petitioners have also listed some 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 central government has imposed a nation-wide lockdown till 3 May to check on the rising cases of the Covid-2019 virus while giving an exception to the essential service category. Media has also been added under the essential service category.

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