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After mass lay-offs and salary cuts in the Media Industry amid COVID-19 Lockdown, National Alliance of Journalists seeks SC's intervention

Shruti Mahajan

The National Alliance of Journalists has moved the Supreme Court for the suspension of all retrenchment, salary cuts and sallied orders by media houses against its employees till further orders.

The Scribe Body has submitted before the Supreme Court that various employees of the media industry were meted out with inhuman treatment by their employers, based on unilateral decisions to either slash salaries or issued termination notices.

It is the case of the petitione that these steps were taken despite an advisory from the Centre directing that no services should be terminated during the period of the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown.

The petition goes on to list at least nine instances where media houses have imposed salary cuts or issued notices sending employees on indefinite unpaid leave, or served termination letters.

In the backdrop of the lockdown, the media industry has effected job losses and wages cuts with impunity.

The media houses have "summarily shut down", the petitioner states, while arguing the same to be in violation of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947. Further, apart from contravening legal provisions and advisories, the petitioner argues that these steps were taken without being mindful of the helpless position this leaves the employees in.

Moreover, such treatment is contended to be in violation of the terms of the employment contracts and appointment letters, in some cases. The retrenchment effected over the last few days is additionally in violation of the Working Journalsists Act of 1955 as well as the Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, it is pointed out.

Therefore, the petitioner has prayed that the Court direct all media houses, including digital media, to treat all termination notices, resignations received pursuant to request, wage reductions, and directions to go on leave without pay, which took place after the announcement of the COVID-19 lockdown, as suspended with immediate effect.

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