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Plea challenging mass lay-offs by media houses raises serious issues, Supreme Court observes; issues notice to Centre

Debayan Roy

Amid mass lay-offs and salary cuts in the media industry during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Supreme Court today observed that a plea highlighting the same had raised "serious issues".

The Bench headed by Justice NV Ramana thus issued notice to the Centre in the petition filed by journalists' unions.

The petitioners were represented by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves.

On April 16, the National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and two other unions had approached the Supreme Court for suspension of all retrenchment, salary cuts and allied orders by media houses against their employees till further orders.

The Alliance had submitted before the 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 issue termination notices.

The Court, while hearing the matter today, indicated that it would issue notice. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested the three-judge bench to "hand him over a copy" of the petition so that he could "respond."

In response, Justice SK Kaul stated,

"Other unions are also saying this. The question is if business does not start, how long will they sustain? The issue needs hearing."

The PIL was filed jointly by NAJ, Delhi Union of Journalists, and the Brihan Mumbai Union of Journalists.

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

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

The petitioners had 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.

[READ THE ORDER]

Media Lay off order.pdf
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