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S.17(2) Working Journalists Act | Notice To Employer Not Mandatory Before Making Reference To Adjudicatory Mechanism: Punjab & Haryana High Court

Drishti Yadav
22 April 2022 8:00 AM GMT
S.17(2) Working Journalists Act | Notice To Employer Not Mandatory Before Making Reference To Adjudicatory Mechanism: Punjab & Haryana High Court
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Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that whereas adjudicatory mechanism under the Working Journalists Act is intended to provide an opportunity of hearing to the employer qua the question of claim raised by the employee, the employer cannot claim any hearing before making of the reference by the appropriate government under Section 17(2) of the Act. The Court was dealing with...

Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that whereas adjudicatory mechanism under the Working Journalists Act is intended to provide an opportunity of hearing to the employer qua the question of claim raised by the employee, the employer cannot claim any hearing before making of the reference by the appropriate government under Section 17(2) of the Act.  

The Court was dealing with a petition filed by an employer, challenging the order passed by the appropriate government, referring claim of wages of 56 employees to the adjudicatory mechanism, without proper notice.

The bench comprising Justice Rajbir Sehrawat dismissed the petition for it being sans merit and held that the action of the appropriate government in referring the matter to the Labour Court is in tune with the provisions of Section 17 of the Act.

Brief facts relevant to the case are that the petitioner-company is running the newspaper 'Dainik Bhaskar' from multiple locations. Some employees (respondents) had a dispute regarding the payment of their wages. They moved applications to the appropriate government/authorities for redressal of the same. The appropriate government referred it to the Labour Court for its adjudication. Hence, the present petition is filed challenging the said reference.

After considering the rival submissions, this court held that since, the dispute required adjudication by the adjudicatory body which is a requirement under Section 17 (2) of the Working Journalists And Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of service) And Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 Act, the matter was rightly referred to the Labour Court for its proper adjudication.

In view of the above, it is clear that so far as the State Government is concerned, it had received the claim of 56 employees. The said employees had raised a dispute regarding non-payment of their wages. Finding substance in the claim of the employees, the matter qua 56 employees has been referred.

The court made a reference to Section 17 of the said act and held that under the said provision when any amount is due to a newspaper employee, he can approach the State Government which, if satisfied, will ask the Collector to recover the money from the employer in accordance with the law. However, if the appropriate government believes that the amount is not a determined amount or there is any question regarding it, it can refer the matter to an Adjudicatory Mechanism.

Negating the argument raised by learned counsel for the petitioner that the reference has been made without giving any notice to the petitioner-employer, the court held that Section 17 (2) does not require any such notice.

This provision does not even use the word 'dispute', rather it uses the word 'question' which may arise as to the amount. Otherwise also, sub Section (2) of Section 17 of the Act does not require any notice to the employer before making a reference to the Adjudicatory Mechanism.

Adding further, the court held that the procedure prescribed under this Act is different than the procedure prescribed under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

While under the Industrial Disputes Act, the conciliatory procedure mandates giving of notice and granting an opportunity of hearing to the employer to reconcile the matter and to determine whether there exists any dispute or not, under Section 17 of the Act, such conciliatory procedure is not contemplated.

Court further held that the Industrial Disputes Act or other law is made applicable only to the proceedings before the Labour Court and after Labor Court's order recovery is effected under Section 17 (1) of the Act.

The provision Section 17 casts a duty upon the government to, firstly effect recovery of the amounts, if the amounts are already determined and if the amounts are not clear and the employee has approached the government qua nonsatisfaction of his claim qua the wages amount, then government has to refer the dispute to the Adjudicatory Mechanism. The government can refer the question of amount to the Adjudicatory Mechanism suo moto, even without application from any employee.

Concluding further court held that the employer has a right to be heard for the determination of the question, but he cannot claim any hearing as such.

For the reasons mentioned above, the court dismissed the petition finding it sans merit.

Case Title: Dainik Bhaskar Corporation Limited Versus State of Haryana and others 

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (PH) 84

Click Here To Read/Download Order



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