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"They have no social security benefit and in case of unfortunate death in the line of duty, they also do not have any means of compensation either from the management or the government", the petition states.
The Karnataka High Court has issued notice in a plea urging it to direct the State and Central Government to provide a compensation of Rs 50,0000 to the families of media and newspaper delivery persons in the event of their death due to COVID-19.
The petitioner has further arraigned over 30 major media houses, while praying that such media houses also be directed to pay Rs 50,000 as compensation in the event of their employee's demise due to the pandemic.
Notice has been issued by a Divison Bench comprising of Justices BV Nagarathna and Suraj Govindaraj.
The petition by one, Jacob George through Advocate H Sunil Kumar highlights that media persons, in both the print and electronic sectors, are also working during amid the pandemic apart from doctors, nurses, health care personnel and ASHA activists. It is stated that the media is working day and night to make the general public aware about the harmful effects of the Coronavirus.
The petitioner points out that, "reporters are interviewing the doctors, police personnel, government officials, patients and the family members of the patients infected by the coronavirus on a day to day basis. They are under great risk of contacting the virus and their families are also under the great risk of contacting the deadly virus."
However, such persons have no social security benefits. The petitioner adds that in the event of their unfortunate death in the line of duty, they do not even have any means of compensation, either from the management or from the government.
"They have no social security benefit and in case of unfortunate death in the line of duty, they also do not have any means of compensation either from the management or the government."
The petitioner notes that Delhi Government had recently announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore to the families of health care personnel, police, civil defence volunteers, teachers, fire service personnel etc. if any of these persons were die due to a coronavirus infection.
Similar initiatives were also undertaken by Maharshtra and the Madhya Pradesh Governments, i.e., by providing Rs 50,00,000 as compensation to the kith and kin of Police personnel in case of their death due to a COVID-19 infection.
These steps undertaken by various state governments are a "moral and psychological boost" to lakhs of persons who are fighting in the frontline of the war against COVID-19 for the benefit of the general public, the petitioner emphasises.
Since media persons are also at risk of contracting the infection, It is essential to provide schemes for the welfare of the such persons, the petitioner goes on to add.
To buttress this submission, the plea points out that media persons are required to visit places of high risk such as hospitals, quarantine zones and containment centers, without using Personal Protective Equipment. "This is very risky and they can easily get infected by the coronavirus", the plea notes.
Further, it is argued that as compensation had been announced to Police personnel and the health care workers given the risks they face in performing their duties during the pandemic, denying the same compensation to the media persons and their families amounts to violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The petitioner emphasises that the media provides essential and noble services in bringing out timely information to the public. In this backdrop, petition strongly asserts that the absence of any social welfare scheme to the media persons is highly unjust, inhuman and unethical.
Apart from the prayer made for compensatary relief in the event of the death of a media person due to COVID-19, the plea prays that the Court direct the State:
to compulsorily conduct health check ups to all the media persons to identify any of the suspected cases of corona virus;
to provide safety kits, masks, gloves and Personal protection equipment to the media persons who visit hospitals, quarantine centers and containment zones;
to refrain from terminating the services of the press reporters or staff during the current lockdown period and not to reduce the salary of the media persons during the crisis period.