Supreme Court admits journalists’ unions’ PIL on post-COVID job losses; issues notice to Centre, INS, broadcasters

Amid lay-offs and salary cuts in the media industry during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre in a petition filed by journalists’ unions.

The Bench headed by Justice N. V. Ramana observed that the plea filed by among others by the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ), Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ), had raised “serious issues”.

Five unions had approached the Supreme Court on April 16 for suspension of all retrenchment, salary cuts and allied orders by media houses against their employees till further orders.

The Court, while hearing the matter today, indicated that it would issue notice. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested the three-judge bench to “hand him over a copy” of the petition so that he could “respond.”

In response, Justice SK Kaul stated,

“Other unions are also saying this. The question is if business does not start, how long will they sustain? The issue needs hearing.”

The joint petition listed at least nine instances where media houses have imposed salary cuts, issued notices sending employees on indefinite unpaid leave, or served termination letters.

The petitioners had prayed that the Court direct all media houses, including digital media, to treat all termination notices, resignations received pursuant to request, wage reductions, and directions to go on leave without pay, which took place after the announcement of the COVID-19 lockdown, as suspended with immediate effect.

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