Newspaper managements on Monday informed the Supreme Court that it would not be possible to give any further interim relief other than the 30 per cent interim relief which was already being paid to journalists and non-journalist employees.
Senior counsel Fali Nariman told a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai, “Our answer to your suggestion [at the last hearing on September 21 to make some interim payment] is: ‘we politely decline’.”
Justice Alam again told Mr. Nariman, “You consider paying them something till we finally decide the matter.” Mr. Nariman said, “The problem is if we pay, then it will not be possible for us to recover from them.” Justice Alam said, “That we will take care of in our order.” Mr. Nariman, however, said, “At this stage whether they should receive anything more at all when the [Majithia] award is erroneous has to be decided. Even if the court was to pass some order on interim arrangement, “you will have to hear us.”
Appearing for ABP Pvt. Ltd., publishers of The Telegraph and other newspapers, Mr. Nariman reeled off statistics to drive home the point that in the last 14 years, the salary of journalists and non-journalists had increased by over 200 per cent.
Senior counsel for employees Colin Gonsalves and M.N. Krishnamani said, “We can also produce statistics [on] how we [employees] are affected.” Mr. Gonsalves said most of the journalists who were being paid more were on contract. “It will take at least 10 years for those under the wage board to reach that salary.” As the notification of the Majithia award had not been stayed, the managements should be directed to pay as per the award and whatever excess, if any, was paid could be adjusted against their Provident Fund or gratuity as they were still in service, Mr. Gonsalves suggested.
But Justice Alam told counsel: “We are not staying the notification. If somebody wants to implement it, let them do it. We can’t deny them [managements] an opportunity of hearing when they say even for some interim arrangement they should be heard before passing any order. You will have to wait till January 8, 2013, when we take up the matter for final disposal.”
Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), said the Centre was yet to file its counter though it had raised certain serious issues. Justice Alam made it clear that the case would proceed whether the Centre filed its reply or not.
Besides ABP Ltd., Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd., publishers of The Times of India and other newspapers, and the INS, had challenged the Majithia report and its subsequent notification.