Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Tuesday issued notices to Union and State Governments and leading media houses on a petition jointly filed by Maharashtra Union of Working Journalists (MUWJ) and Nagpur Union of Working Journalists (NUWJ) vehemently opposing salary cuts, illegal sacking and intimidating tactics adopted by newspaper establishments to change the service conditions of media persons.
Ignoring the appeal made by Prime Minister to protect the interests of employees and mandatory guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs, Labour Department and Chief Secretary, the newspaper management citing losses, hurriedly removed hundreds of employees in totally illegal manner and also resorted to heavy salary cuts thereby violating all statutory provisions and guidelines issued by Centre and State, the petitioners stated while urging the High Court to immediately restrain the managements from continuing with their nefarious agenda of removing journalists from their jobs and reducing their salary to make them totally subservient thereby hampering the freedom of speech and expression.
A division bench consisting of Justice Sunil B Shukre and Justice Anil S Kilor issued notice to all respondents and made it returnable after four weeks. The petitioners MUWJ through its organising secretary Vishwas Balwant Indurkar and NUWJ through its president Shirish Borkar had joined Union Of India through cabinet secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, the State of Maharashtra through its Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary of Labour Department, Home Secretary, Indian Newspaper Society, Vidarbha Daily Newspaper Association, managements of Lokmat, Times of India and Maharashtra Times, Sakal, Deshonnati, Nav Bharat, Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express and Loksatta, Lokshahi Varta as party respondents.
The petition has narrated in detail the arbitrary salary cuts imposed by respondent newspaper managements following COVID-19 pandemic and wondered as to why newspaper employees and particularly journalists have been made scapegoats. The petitioner association also pointed out the statutory framework including Working Journalists Act and Majjithia Wage board endorsed by the Supreme Court and how the newspaper managements always strived to scuttle this welfare legislation providing some succour to journalists who constantly work under stress and pressure.
The petitioners have urged the High Court to direct the authorities to restrain the newspaper managements from committing such brazen illegality and protect the journalists from the tyranny of the managements who are using COVID-19 pandemic as a ploy to get rid of protected employees and salary framework guaranteed by law and endorsed by the Supreme Court.
Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar and Adv Maneesh Shukla appeared for the MUWJ and NUWJ. Assistant Solicitor General of India Ulhas Aurangabadkar waived notice for respondent Union Government while GP Sumant Deopujari waived notice for the state.