4 March 2023 6:22 AM GMT
The Allahabad High Court has directed the Prescribed Authority under The Working Journalists And Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions Of Service) And Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, to refer the dispute, pertaining to deduction of salaries of the Indian Express employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the Labour Court.Various employers including the newspapers had deducted the salaries...
The Allahabad High Court has directed the Prescribed Authority under The Working Journalists And Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions Of Service) And Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, to refer the dispute, pertaining to deduction of salaries of the Indian Express employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the Labour Court.
Various employers including the newspapers had deducted the salaries of employees or workmen during the pandemic. In the case filed by certain employees of the Indian Express, it has been stated that they provided services even during the period in question - April 01, 2020, to February 28, 2021, but the daily still deducted a certain percentage of their monthly salary.
Dealing with a petition challenging the Prescribed Authority’s finding that the dedication was illegal, Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery said the Authority entered into the arena of dispute to decide legality of deduction.
“Therefore, it has acted beyond its jurisdiction provided under Section 17(1) of Act, 1955 and committed legal error by not making reference to Labour Court,” said the court.
Setting aside the order dated December 07, 2022, the court directed the Prescribed Authority to refer the dispute to the Labour Court within a period of two weeks. The court further directed the Labour Court to conclude the proceedings within a period of six months thereafter, “subject to other business of Court”.
The court also granted the Indian Express the liberty to have a meeting with employees, who have supported it during Covid-19 Pandemic, to settle the dispute with regard to deduction of salary even beyond lockdown period. It said the newspaper should refund “a proximate money” to the workmen, if possible.
At the outset, the court observed that the parties have not seriously disputed the legal position with regard to the issue that application by a newspaper employees is to be filed under sub-section (1) of Section 17 of 1955 as per Rule 36 of Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Rules, 1957.
“That application can be filed before State Government or such authority, as the State Government may specify in that behalf. Where there exists no dispute, the State Government or authority, so specified, upon being satisfied that any amount is so due, shall issue a certificate for that amount to Collector and Collector would, thereafter, recover that amount as an arrears of land revenue. Where a question or dispute arises then a reference is to be made to Labour Court for adjudication of dispute,” observed the court.
The court further explained that after adjudicating the dispute, the Labour Court has to forward its decision to the State Government or authority which made the reference, upon which the amount is to be recovered in the manner provided by sub-section (1) of Section 17 of the 1955 Act.
“Since Section 17, as a whole, creates a single seamless scheme, the State Government, in exercise of its power under sub-section (1) can specify an authority to do all acts which it has power to do under Section 17 of Act, 1955,” it added.
The counsel representing the Indian Express argued that when the employer had come up with a case that deduction was legal and contrary to it the respondents-workmen had submitted that it was an illegal deduction, the correct procedure was to refer the matter to the Labour Court.
The newspaper also argued that MHA’s notification for payment of wages without any deduction by employers during the lockdown period, is arbitrary and doesn't consider that the industry suffered financial loss due to irregular publication of newspapers and magazines during the period.
However, the counsel representing the workmen submitted that they ensured that publication may not be discontinued and that newspapers were published and circulated effectively initially through online mode and thereafter by physical circulation.
“Period of deduction of salary was beyond the lockdown period also. No reason was afforded prior to deduction and no prior notice was issued. Amount was not disputed as well as employer has not disputed that during relevant period publication,” the counsel said.
Title: The Indian Express Pvt. Ltd vs Union Of India And 15 Others
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