Monday, July 18, 2011

Supreme Court: defer decision on wage board recommendations

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre not to implement the recommendations of the G.R. Majithia wage boards for journalists and non-journalists for two weeks.

A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma told Additional Solicitor-General Parag Tripathi: “Don't do anything for two weeks till we decide the matter.” In the meanwhile, it asked Mr. Tripathi to produce a copy of the report of the wage boards in the court and give one to the petitioner, ABP Pvt. Ltd., to enable it to file its rejoinder and amend the prayers in the petition.

Earlier, senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for the petitioner, said that though the notice was issued on May 13, the government had not given a copy of the report so far. He wanted the court to restrain the government from notifying the recommendations.

Mr. Tripathi, however, argued that that since only one newspaper had moved the court against the recommendations, the court should not grant any stay, and the government must be allowed to take a decision on their implementation. He said the report should be allowed to be implemented, subject to the decision of the court.

Counsel Parmanand Pandey, appearing for unions of journalists and non-journalists, said the copy of the report had already been given to the newspaper managements. Lakhs of employees were waiting for the notification to be issued by the government; to demand this, he said, they had staged dharna and agitation. He opposed any stay on the implementation of the recommendations.

Justice Bhandari told Mr. Pandey: “We are not passing any order on stay. We are only saying ‘don't do it for two weeks.' Nothing should be done till we decide. We will hear you.”

The petitioner submitted that no other industrial establishment of national importance was regulated this way: paying wages on the basis of the recommendations of a wage board, and it amounted to hostile discrimination. The petition said the Majithia wage boards went beyond their jurisdiction while making the recommendations, dealing as they did with issues such as retirement, pension to newspaper journalists and non-journalists and assured promotion.

Besides seeking to declare that the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act null and void and ultra vires the Constitution, it sought a direction to restrain the Centre from taking any decision based on the “faulty and flawed” recommendations.

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