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This article is written by Seep Gupta, a student currently pursuing B.A. LL.B (Hons) from the Institute of Law, Jiwaji University. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the provisions of the Delhi Working Journalist Amendment Act, 2015. 

Introduction

Every time, whenever I peek through my balcony during leisure hours in the day, I see a plethora of newspaper employees and labourers working and toiling hard under the scorching heat. The expression on their face looks tiresome and wrinkles and sweat on their face due to continuous hard work make their conditions more deplorable. The workers who work in the building earn only Rs. 500 per day that is equivalent to 6.58 dollars in a day, which is quite low. The Delhi working Journalist Amendment Act which came into effect in 2015 is aimed to ensure increased wages and better health conditions for the workers and strict punishment for those who do not adhere to this Act. This act was passed to protect the rights of the labourers and employees in the newspaper establishments.

Historical background

A brief history of the presiding the Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955

A large number of people are employed in newspaper establishments because it’s quite a big business. The Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 was made to stabilize the conditions of those who are working journalists and those who work in the newspaper establishments. It was made with the view to settle industrial labour disputes, regarding gratuity, a period of notice, provident funds, and for the payment of equal wages and remuneration to the working journalists and those employees who work in the newspaper establishments. 

The government of India commissioned a press committee to enquire about the conditions of those who work in the newspaper establishments and those who are working journalists.

The press committee recommended certain improvements for the betterment and more effective conditions for the working journalists and employees working in the newspaper establishments. After acting on these recommendations, the legislative assembly proposed a miscellaneous provisions bill in the parliament. 

The miscellaneous provisions bill passed with the assent of the president in both of the houses of parliament and it came into effect on 20th December 1955. It came into statute as, “The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Establishments and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955”. It was made to stabilize the conditions of the working journalists and those who work in newspaper establishments.

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Delhi Working Journalist Amendment Act

This Act Delhi Working Journalist Amendment Act was amended keeping in mind The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1955. This Act was implemented in 1955 for ensuring the betterment of conditions of working journalists and the persons who were employed in newspaper companies. This act was implemented to fix their wages, hours of work, sick leaves, gratuity entitlement, etc. Working journalists include all the contractual workers and labourers. Section 9 of the act depicts that there shall be the constitution of the wage board which will fix the salaries for the working journalist. 

On the lines of Section 9 and Section 13 C of the Act, the central government constituted the two wage boards under the chairmanship of Justice G.R. Majithia for deciding the wages to be paid to the working journalists and newspaper employees. These were popularly known as “Majithia Wage Boards”.

The newspaper companies were aggrieved by the Majithia wage board and filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian constitution claiming that the criteria used by the Majithia wage boards for the calculation of the daily wages were erroneous and false. But, the Supreme Court quashed the writ petition and held that Majithia wage boards were conducted effectively. Following were the findings of the Majithia wage boards:

  1. After the perusal of all the findings and studies conducted by the Majithia boards, it was held that the Majithia board conducted the study effectively and legitimately.
  2. The concept of ‘variable pay’ introduced by the sixth pay commission is incorporated in the Majithia wage board to ensure the equal treatment of all the employees who are working at the newspaper establishments and for working journalists.
  3. Establishments which have suffered heavy losses in the presiding three accounting years, they will be exempted for the payment of arrears. 

The Supreme Court after hearing all the writ petitions held that findings of the Majithia wage boards are legal and according to provisions of the law and notified the same to the state government to implement its provisions in their respective states and union territories and thus dismissed all the writ petitions.

How Delhi Working Journalist and Newspaper Employees Amended Act, 2015 came into existence

The President assented to the bill in 2015 which was introduced by the Delhi Government to address the shortcomings of the guidelines which are given in the Majithia wage boards and to amend the Working Journalist and Other Newspaper Employees Act, 1955. The amendments were made to Section 17 and Section 18 of the previous act to strengthen the provisions related to criminal liability which are present in the 1955 act.  The bill amended the 1955 act and enacted the Delhi Working Journalist Amendment Act, 2015 to ensure the effective implementation of wages to workers in Delhi.

Salient features and objectives

The Delhi Working Journalist and Newspaper Employees Amended Act, 2015 was amended keeping in mind to ensure the strict adherence with the guidelines and provisions of the amended Act. The following amendments were made to ensure the strict liability of the employers towards their employees in any establishment and strict penal provisions and deterrence for all those who will violate the provisions of the said Act.

The objective of the amended act is to dissolve the shortcomings and lacunae that are there to implement the various guidelines and recommendations of the Majithia Wage Boards. 

It is introduced so that the working journalists and employees who work in newspaper establishments can have equal wages to raise their wages and salaries. 

The existing Act of 1955 had major loopholes and lacunas in dealing with the salaries and wages of the working journalists and employees of the newspaper establishments.  

The amended act is successful in implementing the recommendations which are given in the Majithia wage boards. The Amendment to the previous Working Journalist and Newspaper Employees and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 inserts new subsections to Section 17 and Section 18 to the 1955 Act.

The salient features of the Act are as follows:

  1. The Act is amended with the view to address the shortcoming of the guidelines and proposals which are made in the Majithia Wage Boards.
  2. It is amended with the view to make penal provisions that are already present in the 1955 Act to make it stricter and to strengthen it. 
  3. Section 18 of the 1955 Working Journalists and Newspaper Establishments Act 1955 is amended which now makes an employer criminally liable and imprisonment for up to 6 months if he fails to give proper wages to his employee during a certain period. Given that he shall be liable for fine also which may extend to Rs. 5000.
  4. The new amendment which inserted Sections 18(1) and 18(1A) introduces stricter penal provisions which can further serve as a deterrent for those who violate the provisions of the Delhi Working Journalists and Newspaper Establishments Amendment Act 2015.
  5. The violator is liable for the fine up to 500 rs which can extend up to 1000 rs along with strict penal provisions.

Amendments

The Delhi Government introduced a bill to make amendments in the Working Journalists and Newspaper Establishments Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. 

The bill was supposed to make amendments in the Sections 17 and Section 18 of the Working Journalist Newspaper Establishments Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 to strengthen the penal provisions and to provide strict norms and guidelines for those who do not comply with the guidelines and provisions of the Act. The new subsections and amendments which were made to Section 17 and Section 18 were based on the recommendations and studies based on the Majithia Wage Boards. 

The Amendment inserted the following sections to the 1955 act which are mentioned below:

  1. Section 17(1A)In this amendment, it is given that without affecting any other section, the employer can ask a newspaper establishment employee to pay the compensation which should not exceed 5 times the amount due to him.
  2. It was further proposed by the government to substitute Section 18 of the 1955 Act.
  3. If any employer will not comply and adhere to the provisions of the Act then he shall be liable for imprisonment which may extend to six months and shall liable for fine also, which may extend to five thousand rs. It is given that if an employer does not pay wages to his employees then he will be liable under the same provisions mentioned above.
  4. Section- 1(A)Whoever has already committed any act which is forbidden according to the provisions of this Act will commit another act in a repeated manner then that person shall be liable for imprisonment up to one year and shall also be liable to fine up to ten thousand rupees.

So, these are some of the amendments that are made to the previous 1955 Act. 

                    

Case laws

Some of the landmark cases are mentioned below:

Mangalam Publications (India) vs. Shri. Cherian Zachariah 22 July 1995

In this case, the petitioner was a registered newspaper establishment that was registered under Company’s Act, 1956. The respondent worked under this company. The petitioner dismissed the respondent on the ground of unauthorized leave that too without submitting any due cause under stipulated time and because of the demand for the increment in the wages. The respondent filed a claim of the industrial dispute under Section 10 of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 with two subsequent claims regarding it. The labour court ordered that the respondent must be taken back into the service with 50% of the wages to be given to him but found no evidence that his work is supervisory and also the management also failed to produce any additional evidence to prove that the nature of the work is supervisory.

According to the appellant, the respondent was not a working journalist under Section 2(f) of The Working Journalist and Newspaper Establishment Provisions Act, 1955.

According to Section 2(f) of the Act:

  1. Working Journalist includes any part-time or whole-time journalist in any establishment and that includes, editor, leader-writer, news editor, cartoonist, copy tester, proofreader but does not include any person who is:

(i) is mainly employed in a managerial or administrative capacity

(ii) discharges function mainly of a managerial nature such as those of a supervisor.

According to the Labour Court, the respondent was a working journalist and no evidence whether oral or documentary by the management to prove that the dismissal of the respondent is sustainable and no domestic inquiry was preceded before giving the dismissal. So, the court and agreed by the Labour court and thus other petitions and dismissal were set aside by the court. And the dismissal of the respondent by the appellant was held arbitrary.

Hitchandra Jha vs. The State of Bihar and Ors. 6th March 2019

In this case, the Petitioner Hitchandra Jha was an employee in the Newspaper and Publications Limited. At the closing of the company, the company was recognized for the payment of overdue and due salaries to the employees who were working under this newspaper establishment. The petitioner approached the government for the direction for the payment of the over dues but did not get any positive response and the government referred this to the labour court for the payment of the dues and the salary under the Section 17(2) of the Working Journalists and the Newspaper Establishment Act, 1955.

According to Section (2) of the Act if any question arises regarding the payment of dues or salary the State Government may refer the matter to the labour court. According to the Section 17 of the Act, if the state government is satisfied then it should refer the matter to the collector and collector will issue a certificate regarding the recovery of the salary or due, but in this Act, no positive response was given by both the government and the labour court. 

Therefore the High Court of Patna held that the labour court should take positive action regarding the recovery of the salaries and dues of the employees and working journalists working in the newspaper publication limit.

Conclusion

The recently amended Working Journalist and Newspaper Establishments and Miscellaneous Provisions Act by the Delhi Government is yet to pass the litmus test of whether this act will be able to solve most of the grievances of the labourers and working journalists correctly or not. In upcoming years we will get to know.

References


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