On Friday, the High Court of Bombay sought the government's response in the PIL to challenge illegal, arbitrary, inhuman and unilateral measures to eliminate or reduce the pay of journalists and non-journalist staff in various media houses in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
The PIL was filed by the Maharashtra Union of Working Journalists and the Nagpur Union of Working Journalists raise a grievance against such employees being forcibly terminated, subject to pay cuts and forced to accept changes to their terms of service in order to become contractual employees.
In this matter Notice was issued by the Bombay HC Bench of Justices Sunil B Shukre and Anil S Kilor earlier this week. It is also pointed out that the media sector was spared from the lockout and that, in the midst of the pandemic, they continued to operate on the frontlines.
"It is worth mentioning here that the journalists / nonjournalists employed by these newspaper organizations / groups are the frontline Corona warriors even during this lockdown time and that they operate by raising their lives by providing facilities, credible news to the general public and are now facing termination for all the wrong reasons”.
"For nearly a month now, the newspaper organizations / groups themselves have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. And now, not a single day passes when there's news about sacking print media employees or shutting down some edition or section of some newspaper or another," the petitioners further state.
The petitioners also point out that the illegal strategies used by the media houses are frequently accompanied by "sugar-coated internal communications from the owners or CEOs of these organisations" that workers must be prepared for more sacrifices in the future. The petitioners name several prominent media houses such as The Bennett Coleman and Company Limited i.e. the Times Group,The Lokmat Media Private Limited, the Dainik Bhaskar Group, the Hindustan Times Group, Sakal Group, Tarun Bharat Group, Navbharat Group the Indian Express Loksatta Group, the ABP management, Deshnnati Group, Punya Nagari and Lokshahi Varta.
In addition to infringing Articles 14, 16, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the petitioners claim that these reduction and employee-related steps infringe the 1947 Labor Relations Act and the 1955 Working Journalists Act. As such, the petitioners argue that if private media houses are not given a binding directive, "thousands of employees will be vulnerable to losing their jobs / earnings, leading to an unprecedented economic situation-a situation that the country can not afford."