The Supreme Court has virtually set-up a SIT (Special Investigative Team) to find out the status of the implementation of the Majithia Wage Awards by the newspaper proprietors and send it within three months to the court.
Contempt petitions filed by the employees of many newspapers came up for hearing yesterday in the Supreme Court before the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana. Judges took strong objection at the callous attitude of the contemnors/ respondents of the newspapers for not filing the counter-affidavit to the contempt petitions. Displeasure of Justice Gogoi was visible on his face and he said no counter affidavits would henceforth be accepted. In fact, the contemnors/respondents have been under illusion that by engaging the expensive lawyers of the country they can get skewed the scale of justice in their favour. This is was the reason that more than one hundred lawyers led by Shri Kapil Sibbal, Shri Salman Khurseed, Shri Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Shri Dushyant Dabey and Shri Shyam Diwan, who were fielded by the contemnors/respondents, packed the courtroom. They wanted to buy the time but the court refused to grant any further time.
IFWJ’s Secretary General and Supreme Court advocate Parmanand Pandey was then asked by the court to initiate the argument in the lead contempt petition no. 411/2014 titled ‘Avishek Raja and others vs. Sanjay Gupta’. In this case, the CEO of Jagran Prakashan Ltd. Shri Sanjay Gupta has been made the contemnor/respondent.
Shri Pandey started his argument by drawing the attention of two glaring facts. One; that after the filing of the contempt petitions the proprietors of the newspapers have started the chain of repression against workers. Employees are being arbitrarily transferred, suspended and terminated, without observing the basic principles of natural justice. No show-cause notice is given, no domestic inquiry is conducted nor any charge sheet is served to them. He appealed to the Hon’ble Court that the directions should be issued to the newspaper barons and the state governments to stop the harassment and victimization of employees.
Two; the Jagran management is a habitual offender of labour laws. What to say of the implementation of the Wage Boards Awards this newspaper has been violating all labour laws related to employees.
Shri Pandey thereafter forcefully argued that even after more than four years of the notification of the Award in 2010, the contemnor has failed to provide wages, allowances and arrears to the newspaper employees as per Wage Boards recommendations. Shri Pandey furnished the salary slips of the petitioners, which conclusively prove that the Management was guilty of the contempt of court as there was no difference in the wages and allowances, which were paid before the judgment of the hon’ble Supreme Court and after the judgment. At this point Justice Ramana wanted to know whether it is the case only with petitioner or with all other employees. Advocate Parmanand Pandey told the hon’ble court that this is not the isolated case but it has happened with all employees of the newspaper. Shri Pandey further said that even the contemnor Sanjay Gupta has accepted in his counter affidavit that 738 employees of the company have given it in writing that ‘they are satisfied with the present wage structure of Jagran Prakashan Ltd. They, therefore, do not want the wages and allowances as per the recommendations of the Wage Boards’. The hon’ble bench expressed surprise over it. The bench went into huddle for a minute and Justice Gogoi asked Shri Pandey whether this condition was prevailing in other states and other newspapers; Mr. Pandey replied in affirmative.
The bench was shocked to know that why the governments were sleeping over the judgment of the Supreme Court, when they knew it well that the newspaper establishments had not implemented the Wage Board Awards. The bench then decided to give directions to the state governments for ensuring the implementation of the Awards. At this point, the senior advocate of another contempt petition Shri Colin Gonsolvise told the court that Delhi Government was willing to do something in this regard. He also mentioned about provision of 17B of the Working Journalists Act, which empowers the Government to take necessary steps in this regards.
Shri Pandey pointed out in his argument that instead of implementing the Wage Boards Awards most of the managements including the contemnor/management of Jagran Prakashan Ltd., in the petition for which he is arguing the case, are hiding behind section 20J of the Wage Boards recommendations. Shri Pandey pointed out that section 20J is actually meant for those employees, who are already getting more than what the Wage Board has recommended but not for those who are getting far less than the recommendations. At this point Shri Kapil Sibbal, senior advocate of Jagran management said that section 20J was fully valid, as it had been provided in the Wage Board recommendations itself.
The bench again went into brief confabulation and said that we would direct the state government to appoint special officers to investigate into the state of affairs with regard to the implementations of the Wage Board recommendations. At this point senior advocates of the newspaper owners like; Shri Kapil Sibbal, Shri Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Shri Shyam Diwan sprang up on their feet and pleaded the bench that it would amount to returning to the ‘inspector raj’. However, the bench refused to listen to their requests and dictated the order for appointment of the special officers by the state governments, which will prepare the report and send it directly to Supreme Court. Thus, the order of the Supreme Court is similar to the setting up of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) for the benefit of the newspaper employees.
Shri Kapil Sibbal also ridiculed the efforts being made by the Government of Delhi, which is under the rule of AAP and then one advocate retorted to him that the AAP Government would certainly do better than the Congress Government. It may be mentioned here that when the Wage Board report was notified , Shri Sibbal and Shri Salman Khursheed were cabinet ministers in the Manmohan Singh headed Central Government. It can be anybody’s guess by watching the battery of lawyers belonging to the Congress party standing by the side of newspaper owners that whose side their sympathies lay. It is again very interesting to know that while Shri Kapil Sibbal was batting for Dainik Jagran his son Amit Sibbal, who is also a senior advocate, was to protect Dainik Bhaskar.
Ram P Yadav, Secretary, IFWJ Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org