The Supreme Court on Wednesday permitted the Union Cabinet to take a decision on implementing the recommendations of the Justice G.R. Majithia Wage Board for journalists and non-journalists.

Any decision would, however, be subject to the outcome of the case filed by ABP Pvt. Ltd.; the Indian Newspaper Society; Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd., and two others challenging the board's final report submitted in December 2010, said a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves made a mention that the cases scheduled for hearing on Wednesday were not listed, and sought early hearing as the Cabinet had to take a decision on the proposals.

Additional Solicitor-General Parag Tripathi said the Cabinet wanted to consider the wage board report but it could not take any decision as the matter was pending in court. At this, Justice Bhandari told him: “The Cabinet can always consider the issue. No one is preventing you [the Cabinet] from taking a decision.”

Senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for ABP Pvt. Ltd., publisher of The Telegraph and other newspapers, said any Cabinet decision would be subject to the final orders of the court.

Justice Bhandari said: “All decisions are subject to our orders. We need not say that.”

The Bench directed that the matter be listed for final hearing on October 11, and that the parties complete their submissions in the meantime.

The newspaper managements had argued that the wage board recommendations, if implemented, would cause chaos in the industry. They also challenged the validity of the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, under which the board was formed, and wanted it declared null and void and ultra vires the Constitution. They sought a direction to restrain the Centre from taking any decision based on the board's “faulty and flawed” recommendations.

The Centre, in its response to the first petitioner, ABP Pvt. Ltd., justified the report and said the wage structure had been determined on the basis of the employer's capacity to pay. Though it was constituted specifically to fix or revise wages, the board, in its wisdom, made recommendations on retirement age and other issues also. The Centre rejected the charge that the recommendations would infringe the petitioner's right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution. The petitioner's apprehensions at this stage were premature and unfounded, it said.

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