In a morale booster for working journalists and newspaper employees, the Supreme Court Friday upheld the validity of the Majithia wage boards, observing their recommendations for wage hike are based on genuine considerations.
It also junked newspaper organisations’ challenge to the constitutional validity of the working journalists and newspaper employees act.
Justice G.R. Majithia was appointed chairman of the two wage boards for journalists and non-journalists in 2009, and his recommendations for wage hikes for both categoriers of newspapwer employees were notified by the government Nov 11, 2011.
A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh said: “Accordingly, we hold that the recommendations of the Wage Boards are valid in law, based on genuine and acceptable considerations, and there is no valid ground for interference under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.”
Upholding the validity of the Majithia wage boards, the court said: “The wages as revised/determined shall be payable from Nov 11, 2011, when the government notified the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Boards.”
“All the arrears up to March 2014 shall be paid to all eligible people in four equal instalments within a period of one year from today and continue to pay the revised wages from April 2014 onwards,” the court said in its order.
Examining the challenge to the constitutional validity of the Working Journalist Act, Chief Justice Sathasivam, pronouncing the judgment, said the court was of the opinion that the challenge to the act “is wholly unfounded, baseless and completely untenable”.
Addressing the contention by the newspaper organisations that the wage boards have not taken into account regional variations, the court said: “It is clear from the report that the Wage Boards have categorized the HRA and transport allowance into X, Y and Z category regions, which reflects that the cost on accommodation and transport in different regions in the country was considered.”
The court also rejected the newspaper organisations’ objection to the appointment of former law secretary K.M.Sahni and journalist P.N.Prasanna Kumar as independent members of the board.
“Merely because K.M. Sahni was a part of the government that took the decision to set up the Wage Boards, does not automatically follow that he ceased to be an ‘independent’ member of the Wage Boards. We are satisfied that K.M. Sahni is an independent member of the Board and cannot be considered to be ‘biased’ in any manner.”
“The contention of the petitioners alleging bias against independent members of the Wage Boards, being based merely on their past status, is entirely baseless in law and amounts to imputing motives,” the court concluded.
Furthermore, the court said that “there is gradation of variable pay and allowances according to the size of the establishments wherein smaller establishments are required to pay those at a lower rate compared to larger establishments”.
“Hence, we are satisfied that the Wage Boards followed certain well laid down principles and norms while making recommendations.”
Rejecting the objections to the procedure followed by the wage boards, the court said: ” Numerous such incidental contentions vis-a-vis procedure adopted by the Wage Boards were alleged which, in our considered view, are not of such grave nature that it calls for withdrawing the recommendations of Wage Boards.”
“In this light, after having exhaustively gone through the record of proceedings and various written communications, we are fully satisfied that the Wage Boards’ proceedings had been conducted and carried out in a legitimate approach and no decision of the Wage Board is perceived to having been taken unilaterally or arbitrarily.”
It also described as “not correct” the newspapers’ contention that the boards copied the Sixth Pay Commission blindly.
“The concept of ‘variable pay’ contained in the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission has been incorporated into the Wage Board recommendations only to ensure that the wages of the newspaper employees are at par with those employees working in other government sectors.”
“Such incorporation was made by the Majithia Wage Board after careful consideration, in order to ensure equitable treatment to employees of newspaper establishments, and it was well within its rights to do so,” said the court.