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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Art.32 of constitution of India - Challenging the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 (in short ‘the Act’) is ultra vires and for quashing of the notification dated 11.11.2011 issued by the Central Government accepting the recommendations made by Justice Majithia Wage Boards for Working Journalists and Non-Journalist Newspaper and News Agency Employees.- Apex court hold that the recommendations of the Wage Boards are valid in law, based on genuine and acceptable considerations and there is no valid ground for interference under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. and dismissed all writ petitions filed by Management of various News papers = ABP Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. .... Petitioner (s) Versus Union of India & Ors. .... Respondent(s) = 2014 (Feb. Part)judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41205

Art.32 of constitution of India - Challenging the Working Journalists and  Other  Newspaper
Employees (Conditions of Service) and  Miscellaneous  Provisions  Act,  1955
(in short ‘the Act’) is ultra vires and for  quashing  of  the  notification dated  11.11.2011  issued  by   the   Central   Government   accepting   the recommendations  made  by   Justice  Majithia  Wage   Boards   for   Working Journalists and Non-Journalist Newspaper and News Agency Employees.- Apex court hold that the recommendations of the Wage  Boards  are valid in law, based on genuine and acceptable considerations  and  there  is no valid ground for interference under Article 32  of  the  Constitution  of India. and dismissed all writ petitions filed by Management of various News papers =
These writ petitions, under Article 32 of the Constitution  of  India,
have been filed  by  the  petitioners  (management  of  various  newspapers)
praying for a declaration that the Working Journalists and  Other  Newspaper
Employees (Conditions of Service) and  Miscellaneous  Provisions  Act,  1955
(in short ‘the Act’) is ultra vires as it infringes the  fundamental  rights
guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the  Constitution  of
India.  and
for  quashing  of  the  notification
dated  11.11.2011  issued  by   the   Central   Government   accepting   the
recommendations  made  by   Justice  Majithia  Wage   Boards   for   Working
Journalists and Non-Journalist Newspaper and News Agency Employees.=
For  the  purpose  of  fixing  or
revising the rates of wages of employees in  newspaper  establishments,  the
Central Government is empowered under Sections 9  and  13C  of  the  Act  to
constitute two Wage Boards, viz., one for the working journalists and  other
for non-journalist newspaper employees respectively. 
 It  is
this recommendation submitted by the Wage  Boards,  which  was  subsequently
accepted by the Central  Government  and  notified  on  11.11.2011  that  is
impugned in the given proceedings.
Discussion
7)    In succinct, the petitioners herein,  challenged  the  recommendations
of the Wage Boards and the  notification  dated  11.11.2011  mainly  on  the
following grounds:-
        i) Constitutional validity of the Act and the Amendment Act, 1974.

       ii) Improper Constitution of the Wage Boards

      iii) Irregularity in the procedure adopted by Majithia Wage Boards.

       iv)  Majithia  Wage  Boards  overlooked  the  relevant  aspects  and
           considered extraneous factors while drafting the recommendations =

We shall examine  and  deliberate  distinctively  on  each  contested  point
surfaced by the petitioners herein in the succeeding paragraphs.=
Accordingly, we hold that the recommendations of the Wage  Boards  are
valid in law, based on genuine and acceptable considerations  and  there  is
no valid ground for interference under Article 32  of  the  Constitution  of
India.

72)   Consequently, all the writ petitions are dismissed with  no  order  as
to costs.

73)   In view of our conclusion and dismissal of  all  the  writ  petitions,
the wages as revised/determined shall be payable from  11.11.2011  when  the
Government of India  notified  the  recommendations  of  the  Majithia  Wage
Boards.  All the arrears up to March, 2014 shall be  paid  to  all  eligible
persons in four equal instalments within a period of  one  year  from  today
and continue to pay the revised wages from April, 2014 onwards.
74)   In view of the disposal of the writ petitions, the  contempt  petition
is closed.
2014 (Feb. Part)judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41205
P SATHASIVAM, RANJAN GOGOI, SHIVA KIRTI SINGH
                                                                  REPORTABLE




                IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                         CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

                                      1


                   2 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 246 OF 2011



ABP Pvt. Ltd. & Anr.                                      .... Petitioner
(s)

            Versus

Union of India & Ors.                     .... Respondent(s)

                                      3


                                 4     WITH


5


                   6 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 382 OF 2011


                   7 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 384 OF 2011


                   8 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 386 OF 2011


                   9 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 408 OF 2011


                  10 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 510 OF 2011


                  11 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 538 OF 2011


                  12 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 514 OF 2011


                  13 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 546 OF 2011


                   14 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 87 OF 2012


                  15 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 264 OF 2012


                  16 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 315 OF 2012


                  17 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 817 OF 2013


                                     18


                                   19 WITH


               20 CONTEMPT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 252 OF 2012 IN


                  21 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 538 OF 2011


                                     22



                               J U D G M E N T


P.Sathasivam, CJI.


1)    These writ petitions, under Article 32 of the Constitution  of  India,
have been filed  by  the  petitioners  (management  of  various  newspapers)
praying for a declaration that the Working Journalists and  Other  Newspaper
Employees (Conditions of Service) and  Miscellaneous  Provisions  Act,  1955
(in short ‘the Act’) is ultra vires as it infringes the  fundamental  rights
guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the  Constitution  of
India.  
The petitioners further prayed  for  quashing  of  the  notification
dated  11.11.2011  issued  by   the   Central   Government   accepting   the
recommendations  made  by   Justice  Majithia  Wage   Boards   for   Working
Journalists and Non-Journalist Newspaper and News Agency Employees.
Factual Background:
2)    It is pertinent to give a vivid  background  of  the  case  before  we
advent to decide the issue at hand. Way back  in  1955,  the  Government  of
India enacted the impugned Act to regulate  the  conditions  of  service  of
Working Journalists and in 1974 via amendment for other Newspaper  Employees
employed  in  newspaper  establishments.
For  the  purpose  of  fixing  or
revising the rates of wages of employees in  newspaper  establishments,  the
Central Government is empowered under Sections 9  and  13C  of  the  Act  to
constitute two Wage Boards, viz., one for the working journalists and  other
for non-journalist newspaper employees respectively.
Likewise, the Act  also
specifies  that  the  Central  Government  shall,  as  and  when  necessary,
constitute these Wage  Boards.
The  composition  of  the  Wage  Boards  is
specified, as mentioned below:-
      (a) Three persons representing  employers  in  relation  to  Newspaper
      Establishments;
      (b) Three persons representing  working  journalists  for  Wage  Board
      under  Section  9  and  three  persons   representing   non-journalist
      Newspaper Employees for Wage Board under Section 13C of the Act;
      (c) Four independent persons, one of whom shall be a person who is, or
      has been a Judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court, and who shall
      be appointed by the Government as the Chairman thereof.
   3) It is relevant to note that since 1955,  six  Wage  Boards  have  been
      constituted for working journalists and  four  Wage  Boards  for  non-
      journalist newspaper employees in order to fix or revise the rates  of
      wages.
The relevant details of the preceding Wage Boards are as under:-





 (i)  Divatia Wage Board
|Date of        |Date of      |Challenge                              |
|Appointment    |Acceptance   |                                       |
|02.05.1956     |10.05.1957   |In Express Newspaper (P) Ltd. vs. Union|
|               |             |of India 1959 SCR 12 the decision of   |
|               |             |the Divatia Wage Board as well as the  |
|               |             |constitutional validity of the Act was |
|               |             |challenged before this Court. This     |
|               |             |Court set aside the decision of the    |
|               |             |Wage Board dt. 30.04.1957 on the ground|
|               |             |that it did not take into account the  |
|               |             |capacity of the industry to pay. As a  |
|               |             |result of this decision, an ordinance  |
|               |             |dated 14.06.1958 was promulgated which |
|               |             |provided for the establishment of a    |
|               |             |Special Committee for making           |
|               |             |recommendations to the Central         |
|               |             |Government in regard to the rates of   |
|               |             |wages to be fixed for working          |
|               |             |journalists.  Later, in September 1958,|
|               |             |the Working Journalists (Fixation of   |
|               |             |Rates of Wages) Act, 1958 was passed by|
|               |             |the Parliament.                        |

(ii)  Shinde Wage Board
|Date of         |Date of      |Challenge                             |
|Appointment     |Acceptance   |                                      |
|12.11.1963/     |27.10.1967   |In Press Trust of India vs. Union of  |
|25.02.1964      |             |India & Ors. (1974) 4 SCC 638, this   |
|                |             |Court struck down the recommendations |
|                |             |of the second Wage Board insofar as   |
|                |             |PTI was concerned as unreasonable and |
|                |             |far in excess of what the employees   |
|                |             |themselves were demanding and beyond  |
|                |             |the financial capacity of the         |
|                |             |establishment and hence violative of  |
|                |             |the fundamental rights guaranteed     |
|                |             |under Part III of the Constitution.   |

(iii) Palekar Wage Board

|Date of         |Date of      |Challenge                             |
|Appointment     |Acceptance   |                                      |
|11.06.1975/     |26.12.1980   |The constitution of Wage Board was    |
|06.02.1976      |             |challenged on 20.07.1981 on the ground|
|                |             |of lack of independence.  In December |
|                |             |1977, the employers’ representatives  |
|                |             |wrote to the Central Government that  |
|                |             |they were withdrawing from the Wage   |
|                |             |Board as desired by the organizations.|
|                |             |The government made several efforts to|
|                |             |resolve the dead lock.  On 28.08.1978,|
|                |             |Writ Petitions were filed by the      |
|                |             |Indian and Eastern Newspaper Society  |
|                |             |and Others in the High Court at Bombay|
|                |             |challenging the constitution of the   |
|                |             |Wage Boards.  In order to find a      |
|                |             |solution, the President promulgated on|
|                |             |31.01.1979 the Working Journalists and|
|                |             |other Newspaper Employees (Conditions |
|                |             |of Service) and Miscellaneous         |
|                |             |Provisions (Amendment), Ordinance     |
|                |             |1979.  This ordinance provided for the|
|                |             |constitution of a Tribunal consisting |
|                |             |of a person who is/or has been a Judge|
|                |             |of the High Court or Supreme Court in |
|                |             |place of each such Board and the      |
|                |             |abolition of such Boards upon the     |
|                |             |constitution of such Tribunals and for|
|                |             |the continuance of the interim wages  |
|                |             |notified by the Government after      |
|                |             |taking into account the               |
|                |             |recommendations of such Boards.       |

(iv)  Bachawat Wage Board

|Date of        |Date of      |Challenge                              |
|Appointment    |Acceptance   |                                       |
|17.07.1985     |31.08.1989   |The award was challenged in Indian     |
|               |             |Express Newspapers (Pvt.) Ltd. and Ors.|
|               |             |vs. Union of India & Ors. 1995 Supp (4)|
|               |             |SCC 758.                               |

(v)   Manisana Wage Board

|Date of         |Date of      |Challenge                             |
|Appointment     |Acceptance   |                                      |
|09.09.1994      |5.12.2000/15.|This Wage Board’s award was challenged|
|                |12.2000 by   |in Karnataka and Delhi High Court.    |
|                |Notification.|The Court while deciding the challenge|
|                |             |struck down the award on the ground   |
|                |             |that the proviso to Section 12(2) was |
|                |             |not followed. However, despite the    |
|                |             |Manisana Award being struck down it   |
|                |             |was implemented by all the newspaper  |
|                |             |establishments.                       |

(vi)  Narayana Kurup Wage Board - Majithia Wage Board from 04.03.2009

|Date of        |Date of      |Challenge                             |
|Appointment    |Acceptance   |                                      |
|24.05.2007     |31.12.2010   |With a slight modification, the       |
|               |             |government notified it on 11.11.2011. |
|               |             |Its report is accepted and impugned in|
|               |             |these proceedings on various asserted |
|               |             |grounds.                              |

Constitution of Justice Majithia Wage Boards

4)    The Government constituted two  Boards  on  24.05.2007,  one  for  the
Working Journalists and the other  for  Non-Journalist  Newspaper  Employees
under Sections 9 and 13C of the Act under the Chairmanship  of  Dr.  Justice
Narayana Kurup.  The Chairman and six of the  remaining  nine  members  were
common  to  both  the  Wage  Boards.   The  remaining  three  members   each
representing the Working Journalists and Non-Journalist Newspaper  Employees
had been nominated by their respective Unions.  The Wage Boards  were  given
three years’ duration to submit their Reports to the Central Government.
5)    However, due to sudden change  of  events,  Dr.  Justice  K.  Narayana
Kurup, the Chairman of the aforesaid Wage Boards submitted  his  resignation
effective from 31.07.2008 after completing  more  than  one  year’s  tenure.
Subsequently, Justice Gurbax Rai Majithia,  a  retired  judge  of  the  High
Court of Mumbai was appointed as the common Chairman of the two Wage  Boards
for Working Journalists and other Newspaper  Employees  who  took  over  the
charge on 04.03.2009. Another significant change in the composition  of  the
Wage  Boards  occurred  due  to  sudden  demise  of   Shri   Madan   Phadnis
representing the All India Newspaper Employees Federation, who was a  member
of the Wage Board for Non-Journalist Newspaper  Employees.   In  his  place,
Shri M.C. Narasimhan, as nominated by the same Federation,  was  substituted
as member of the Board for Non-Journalist Newspaper Employees.  Since  then,
the composition of the two Wage Boards has been as under:-
           Wage Board for Working Journalists
|1.  |Justice Gurbax Rai Majithia, retired Judge  |Chairman       |
|    |of the High Court of Bombay at Mumbai       |               |
|2.  |Shri K.M. Sahni, Former Secretary, Ministry |Independent    |
|    |of Labour and Employment                    |Member         |
|3.  |Shri B.P. Singh                             |Independent    |
|    |                                            |Member         |
|4.  |Shri P.N. Prasanna Kumar                    |Independent    |
|    |                                            |Member         |
|5.  |Shri Naresh Mohan, representing Indian      |Representing   |
|    |Newspaper Society                           |Employers      |
|6.  |Shri Gurinder Singh, representing All India |Representing   |
|    |Small and Medium Newspapers                 |Employers      |
|7.  |Shri Prataprai, Tarachand Shah, representing|Representing   |
|    |Indian language Newspaper Association       |Employers      |
|8.  |Shri K. Vikram Rao, President, Indian       |Representing   |
|    |Federation of Working Journalists           |Working        |
|    |                                            |Journalists    |
|9.  |Dr. Nand Kishore Trikha, President, National|Representing   |
|    |Union of Journalists (India)                |Working        |
|    |                                            |Journalists    |
|10. |Shri Suresh Akhouri, President, Indian      |Representing   |
|    |Journalists Union                           |Working        |
|    |                                            |Journalists    |


      Wage Board for Non-Journalist Newspaper Employees
|1.  |Justice Gurbax Rai Majithia, retired Judge  |Chairman       |
|    |of the High Court of Bombay at Mumbai       |               |
|2.  |Shri K.M. Sahni, Former Secretary, Ministry |Independent    |
|    |of Labour and Employment                    |Member         |
|3.  |Shri B.P. Singh                             |Independent    |
|    |                                            |Member         |
|4.  |Shri P.N. Prasanna Kumar                    |Independent    |
|    |                                            |Member         |
|5.  |Shri Naresh Mohan, representing Indian      |Representing   |
|    |Newspaper Society                           |Employers      |
|6.  |Shri Gurinder Singh, representing All India |Representing   |
|    |Small and Medium Newspapers                 |Employers      |
|7.  |Shri Prataprai, Tarachand Shah, representing|Representing   |
|    |Indian language Newspaper Association       |Employers      |
|8.  |Shri M.C. Narasimhan, Vice President, All   |Representing   |
|    |India Newspaper Employees Federation        |Non-Journalist |
|    |                                            |Newspaper      |
|    |                                            |Employees      |
|9.  |Shri Uma Shankar Mishra, Vice President,    |Representing   |
|    |National Federation of Newspaper Employees  |Non-Journalist |
|    |                                            |Newspaper      |
|    |                                            |Employees      |
|10. |Shri M.S. Yadav, General Secretary,         |Representing   |
|    |Confederation of Newspapers and News        |Non-Journalist |
|    |Agencies Employees’ Organizations.          |Newspaper      |
|    |                                            |Employees      |

6)    Owing to the unexpected change of the members  constituting  the  Wage
Boards, they  could  not  finalize  and  submit  their  reports  within  the
prescribed  period  of  three  years  as  originally   notified   i.e.,   by
23.05.2010.  As such, their term was then extended up to 31.12.2010.  It  is
this recommendation submitted by the Wage  Boards,  which  was  subsequently
accepted by the Central  Government  and  notified  on  11.11.2011  that  is
impugned in the given proceedings.
Discussion
7)    In succinct, the petitioners herein,  challenged  the  recommendations
of the Wage Boards and the  notification  dated  11.11.2011  mainly  on  the
following grounds:-
        i) Constitutional validity of the Act and the Amendment Act, 1974.

       ii) Improper Constitution of the Wage Boards

      iii) Irregularity in the procedure adopted by Majithia Wage Boards.

       iv)  Majithia  Wage  Boards  overlooked  the  relevant  aspects  and
           considered extraneous factors while drafting the recommendations



We shall examine  and  deliberate  distinctively  on  each  contested  point
surfaced by the petitioners herein in the succeeding paragraphs.

8)    Heard Mr. Anil B. Divan, Mr. K.K. Venugopal, Mr. P.P.  Rao,  Mr.  Aman
Lekhi, Mr. S.S. Ramdas, Mr. Brijender Chahar,  learned  senior  counsel  for
the petitioners, Mr. Gopal Jain, Mr. Akhil Sibal, Mr.  Nachiket  Joshi,  Mr.
Anil Shrivastav, Ms. Bina Gupta, Mr. Manoj Goel, Mr. E.C. Agrawala,  learned
counsel for the petitioners, Mr. Mohan Parasaran, learned Solicitor  General
for the official respondents, Mr. Colin Gonsalves,  learned  senior  counsel
and Mr. Parmanand Pandey and Mr. Thampan Thomas, learned counsel  for  other
respondents – journalists/non-journalists.

Constitutional validity of the Act and Amendment Act, 1974

9)    At the outset, almost all the learned  counsel  for  the  petitioners,
challenged the vires of the Act on twin grounds.
Firstly, the Act  infringes
the  guaranteed  fundamental  rights  under  Articles  14  and  19  of   the
Constitution. 
Secondly, the Act has become  obsolete  with  the  passage  of
time.

10)   It is submitted by learned counsel for the petitioners that  misplaced
classification and singling out of a specific business  industry  being  the
Newspaper Industry is violative of Article 14 since the Act  only  regulates
the print media and not electronic media. Also, in the era of  globalization
and liberalization, to shackle one part of the industry with regulations  is
unreasonable, unfair and arbitrary and,  therefore,  violative  of  Articles
19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g).

11)   Learned senior counsel for the petitioners besides  objecting  to  the
constitutionality of the Wage Boards also placed heavy reliance on the  fact
that in other  industries  such  as  cotton,  sugar,  tea,  coffee,  rubber,
cement, jute, all the Wage Boards have been abolished over a period of  time
(sugar being the last in 1989).  They further emphasized on  the  fact  that
the National Commission on Labour in  2002  also  unequivocally  recommended
that there was no need for a Wage Board to be constituted for any industry.

12)   Likewise, it is the stand of the petitioners that due  to  significant
socio-economic changes having taken place in the Indian  economy  after  de-
regulation and privatization, the necessity for Wage  Boards  has  eclipsed.
In order to establish this, learned  counsel  referred  to  the  object  and
purpose of the Act i.e. to ameliorate the conditions of  service.  According
to  learned  senior  counsel,  this  purpose  has  been  achieved  today  as
journalists are paid a fair wage and  also  given  a  compensation  package.
Resultantly, the requirement for controlling and regulating  the  conditions
of service of newspaper employees that was prevalent in earlier phase  (1955
onwards) is no longer required.

13)   Precisely,  learned  counsel  for  the  petitioners  stressed  on  the
ensuing four points to substantiate their claim that  there  is  a  complete
change in the scenario since 1955 when the Press Commission was  constituted
to go into the conditions of employment of working journalists:

      (a)   The journalists are an essential and vital part of  a  newspaper
           establishment. As an outcome, newspaper  establishments  require
           skills, qualification and expertise to ensure the  best  content
           as this is necessary for attracting,  retaining  and  increasing
           viewership  which,  in  turn,  requires  the  full  support   of
           journalists.

      (b)   Through bilateral negotiations and discussions, the  petitioners
           have entered into contracts with a vast majority of  journalists
           and offered them wages, salaries  and  compensation  package  to
           retain top class talent.

      (c)   The newspaper industry itself  has  undergone  a  sea  change  –
           people ‘sleep with the news’ (due to the advent of news channels
           on television). Further, printing technology has  changed  as  a
           consequence and  the  newspapers  now  offer  a  better  quality
           product.  Manpower management has been strengthened  to  attract
           the best talent.

      (d)   There is greater competition from the internet, digital media in
           news channels and from foreign newspapers, therefore,  there  is
           already an obligation on the print  media  to  retain  the  best
           talent by providing fine working conditions.

In  brief,  it  was  contended  that  in  the  present  times  of   economic
liberalization, the Act has become obsolete. 
As a result, Wage  Boards  have
lost their utility and purpose for which they were set up and the  1955  Act
have become outdated and have  outlived  its  utility  especially  with  the
advent of the electronic media and other avenues.





14)   Moreover, learned senior counsel submitted that the track  record  and
report of the Wage Board is another pointer to this  effect.   Most  of  the
decisions of the Wage Board have been quashed.  The recommendations  of  the
first Wage Board were set aside by this Court in Express Newspaper (P)  Ltd.
vs. Union of India 1959 SCR 12 and the previous  Manisana  Wage  Board  (Vth
Wage Board) was also set aside by the Karnataka High  Court  and  the  Delhi
High Court on effective grounds. In view of the above assertions and  taking
into account the ground realities, the petitioners prayed that they must  be
given a  free  hand  and  should  not  be  burdened  with  an  outdated  and
antiquated statute. Henceforth, they pleaded for  abolishment  of  the  Wage
Boards and to declare the Act unconstitutional.

15)    In  support  of  the  above  proposition,  learned  counsel  for  the
petitioners also relied on the decisions of this Court in  John  Vallamattom
vs. Union of India (2003) 6 SCC 611, Malpe Vishwanath Acharya vs.  State  of
Maharashtra (1998) 2 SCC 1 and Indian  Handicrafts  Emporium  vs.  Union  of
India (2003) 7 SCC 589.

16)    Mr.  Mohan  Parasaran,  learned  Solicitor  General  and  Mr.   Colin
Gonsalves,  learned  senior  counsel  effectively  responded  to   all   the
contentions raised by the petitioners,  by  relying  on  Constitution  Bench
decisions of this Court and prayed for rejection of their arguments.

17)   This is not the first time when the aspect as  to  the  Constitutional
Validity of the Act as being ultra vires the Constitution and  violative  of
fundamental rights is being encountered by this Court.
It has  already  been
expressly  decided  by  a  Constitution  Bench  of  this  Court  in  Express
Newspaper (P) Ltd. vs. Union of India AIR 1958 SC 578 and has been  held  to
be intra vires the Constitution. The relevant portions of the said  judgment
are extracted hereunder:

Challenge qua Article 19(1)(a):

     “153. In the present case it is obvious that  the  only  justification
      for the enactment of the impugned Act is that  it  imposes  reasonable
      restrictions in the interests of a section of the general public  viz.
      the working journalists and other persons employed  in  the  newspaper
      establishments.  It  does  not  fall  within  any  of  the  categories
      specified in Article 19(2) viz.

           “In  the  interest  of  the  security  of  the  State,  friendly
        relations with foreign States, public order, decency  or  morality,
        or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an
        offence.”

      Article 19(2) being thus out of the  question,  the  only  point  that
      falls to be determined by us is whether the provisions of the impugned
      Act in any way take away or abridge the petitioners, fundamental right
      of freedom of speech and expression.

      154. It was contended before us by the learned  Attorney-General  that
      it was only legislation directly dealing with the right  mentioned  in
      Article 19(1)(a) that was protected by it. If the legislation was  not
      a direct legislation on the subject, Article 19(1)(a)  would  have  no
      application, the test being not the effect or  result  of  legislation
      but its subject-matter…”

                  ***              ***             ***

      “160. …It could therefore hardly be urged that the possible effect  of
      the impact of these measures in conceivable cases  would  vitiate  the
      legislation as such. All the consequences which have  been  visualized
      in this behalf  by  the  petitioners  viz.  the  tendency  to  curtail
      circulation  and  thereby  narrow  the  scope  of   dissemination   of
      information, fetters on the petitioners freedom to choose the means of
      exercising the right, likelihood of  the  independence  of  the  press
      being undermined by having to seek government aid; the  imposition  of
      penalty on the  petitioner's  right  to  choose  the  instruments  for
      exercising the freedom or compelling them to  seek  alternative  media
      etc, would be remote and depend upon various factors which may or  may
      not come into  play.  Unless  these  were  the  direct  or  inevitable
      consequences of the measures enacted in the impugned Act, it would not
      be possible to strike down the legislation as having that  effect  and
      operation. A possible eventuality of this type would  not  necessarily
      be the  consequence  which  could  be  in  the  contemplation  of  the
      legislature while enacting a measure of this type for the  benefit  of
      the workmen concerned.

      161. Even though the impugned Act enacts measures for the  benefit  of
      the working journalists who are employed in newspaper  establishments,
      the working journalists are but the vocal  organs  and  the  necessary
      agencies for the exercise of the right of free speech and  expression,
      and  any  legislation  directed  towards  the  amelioration  of  their
      conditions  of  service  must   necessarily   affect   the   newspaper
      establishments and have its repercussions on the freedom of press. The
      impugned Act can therefore be legitimately characterized as a  measure
      which affects the press, and if the intention or the proximate  effect
      and operation of the Act was such as to bring it within  the  mischief
      of Article 19(1)(a) it would certainly be liable to  be  struck  down.
      The real difficulty, however, in the way of the  petitioners  is  that
      whatever be the measures  enacted  for  the  benefit  of  the  working
      journalists neither the intention nor the effect and operation of  the
      impugned act is to take away or abridge the right of freedom of speech
      and expression enjoyed by the petitioners.

      162. The gravamen of the complaint  of  the  petitioners  against  the
      impugned Act, however, has been the appointment of the Wage Board  for
      fixation of rates of wages for  the  working  journalists  and  it  is
      contended that apart from creating a class of privileged workers  with
      benefits and rights which were not conferred upon other  employees  of
      industrial establishments, the act has left the fixation of  rates  of
      wages to an agency invested with arbitrary and uncanalised  powers  to
      impose an indeterminate burden on the wage structure of the press,  to
      impose such employer-employee relations as in its discretion it thinks
      fit and to impose such burden and relations for such time as it thinks
      proper. This contention will be more appropriately  dealt  with  while
      considering  the  alleged  infringement  of  the   fundamental   right
      enshrined in Article 19(1)(g). Suffice  it  to  say  that  so  far  as
      Article 19(1)(a) is  concerned  this  contention  also  has  a  remote
      bearing on the same and need not be discussed here at  any  particular
      length.”

Challenge qua Article 19(1)(g)

        “209. This attack of the petitioners on  the  constitutionality  of
      the impugned Act under Article 19(1)(g)  viz.  that  it  violates  the
      petitioners' fundamental right to carry on business,  therefore  fails
      except in regard to Section 5(1)(a)(iii) thereof which  being  clearly
      severable from the rest of the  provisions,  can  be  struck  down  as
      unconstitutional without invalidating the other parts of the  impugned
      Act.”

18)   In succinct, the Constitution Bench of this  Court  in  the  aforesaid
case held that the impugned Act, judged by its provisions, was  not  such  a
law but was a beneficent legislation intended to regulate the conditions  of
service of the working journalists and the consequences that  were  adverted
to in that case could not be the direct and  inevitable  result  of  it.  It
also expressed the view that although there could be no doubt  that  liberty
of the press was an essential part of the freedom of speech  and  expression
guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and if the law  were  to  single  out  the
press to lay prohibitive burdens,  it  would  fall  outside  the  protection
afforded by Article 19(2), the impugned  Act  which  directly  affected  the
press fall outside the categories of protection mentioned in  Article  19(2)
had not the effect of taking away or abridging the  freedom  of  speech  and
expression of the petitioners  and  did  not,  therefore,  infringe  Article
19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Nor could  it  be  held  to  be  violative  of
Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution in view of the test  of  reasonableness
laid down by this Court.

19)   Alternative challenge to the constitutionality of the Act was  on  the
basis that selecting working journalists for  giving  favored  treatment  is
violative of Article  14  as  it  is  not  a  reasonable  classification  as
permissible in the aforesaid Article.  The  Constitution  Bench  dealt  with
this aspect in the following terms:

Challenge qua Article 14

       “210. Re: Art 14.-  The question as formulated is that  the  impugned
      Act selected the working journalists for favoured treatment by  giving
      them a statutory guarantee of gratuity, hours of work and leave  which
      other persons in similar or comparable employment had not got  and  in
      providing for the fixation of their  salaries  without  following  the
      normal procedure envisaged in the Industrial Disputes Act,  1947.  The
      following propositions are advanced:

        1. In selecting the Press industry employers  from  all  industrial
      employers governed by the ordinary law regulating industrial relations
      under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and Act 1 of 1955 the impugned
      Act subjects the Press industry employers to discriminatory treatment.

        2. Such discrimination lies in

        (a) singling out newspaper employees for differential treatment;

        (b) saddling them with a new burden in regard to a section of their
      workers in matters of gratuities,  compensation,  hours  of  work  and
      wages;

        (c) devising a machinery in the form of a Pay Commission for fixing
      the wages of working journalists;

        (d) not prescribing the major criterion of capacity to  pay  to  be
      taken into consideration;

        (e) allowing the Board in fixing the wages to adopt  any  arbitrary
      procedure even violating the principle of audi alteram partem;

        (f) permitting the Board the discretion to operate the procedure of
      the Industrial Disputes Act for  some  newspapers  and  any  arbitrary
      procedure for others;

        (g) making the decision binding only on the employers  and  not  on
      the employees, and

        (h) providing for the recovery of money due from the  employers  in
      the same manner as an arrear of land revenue.

        3. The classification made by the impugned  Act  is  arbitrary  and
      unreasonable, insofar as it removes the newspaper employers  vis-à-vis
      working journalists from  the  general  operation  of  the  Industrial
      Disputes Act, 1947 and Act 1 of 1955.

                 ***              ***              ***

      212. We have already set out what the Press Commission had to  say  in
      regard to the position of the working journalists in  our  country.  A
      further passage from the Report may also be quoted in this context:

        “It is essential to realize in this connection that the work  of  a
      journalist demands a high degree of general education and some kind of
      specialized training.  Newspapers  are  a  vital  instrument  for  the
      education of the masses and it is their business to protect the rights
      of the people, to reflect and guide public opinion  and  to  criticize
      the wrong done by any individual or organization however high  placed.
      They thus form an essential adjunct to democracy. The profession must,
      therefore, be manned by men of high intellectual and moral  qualities.
      The journalists are in a sense creative artists and the public rightly
      or wrongly, expect from them a general omniscience and a  capacity  to
      express opinion on any topic that may arise under the sun. Apart  from
      the nature of their work the conditions under which that work is to be
      performed, are peculiar to this profession. Journalists have  to  work
      at very high pressure and as most  of  the  papers  come  out  in  the
      morning, the journalists are required to work late in  the  night  and
      round the clock. The edition must go to press by a particular time and
      all the news that breaks before that hour has got to find its place in
      that edition. Journalism thus becomes a highly specialized job and  to
      handle it adequately a person should be well-read, have the ability to
      size up a situation and to arrive quickly at the  correct  conclusion,
      and have the capacity to stand the  stress  and  strain  of  the  work
      involved. His work cannot be measured, as in other industries, by  the
      quantity of the output, for  the  quality  of  work  is  an  essential
      element in  measuring  the  capacity  of  the  journalists.  Moreover,
      insecurity of tenure is a peculiar feature of this profession. This is
      not  to  say  that  no  security  exists  in  other  professions   but
      circumstances may arise in connection with  profession  of  journalism
      which may lead to unemployment in this  profession,  which  would  not
      necessarily have that result  in  other  professions.  Their  security
      depends to some extent on the whims and caprices of  the  proprietors.
      We have come across cases where a change in the ownership of the paper
      or a change in the editorial policy of the paper  has  resulted  in  a
      considerable change in the editorial  staff.  In  the  case  of  other
      industries a change in the proprietorship does not normally  entail  a
      change in the staff. But as the essential purpose of  a  newspaper  is
      not only to give news but to  educate  and  guide  public  opinion,  a
      change in the proprietorship or in the editorial policy of  the  paper
      may result and in some cases has resulted in a wholesale change of the
      staff on the editorial side. These circumstances, which  are  peculiar
      to journalism must  be  borne  in  mind  in  framing  any  scheme  for
      improvement of the conditions of working journalists.” (para 512).

      213. These were  the  considerations  which  weighed  with  the  Press
      Commission  in  recommending  the  working  journalists  for   special
      treatment  as  compared  with  the  other   employees   of   newspaper
      establishments in the matter of amelioration of  their  conditions  of
      service.

            ***              ***             ***
      215. …The working journalists are thus a group by themselves and could
      be classified as such apart from  the  other  employees  of  newspaper
      establishments and if the legislature embarked upon a legislation  for
      the purpose of ameliorating their  conditions  of  service  there  was
      nothing discriminatory about it. They could be singled  out  thus  for
      preferential  treatment  against  the  other  employees  of  newspaper
      establishments. A classification of this type could  not  come  within
      the ban of Article 14. The only thing which is prohibited  under  this
      article is that persons belonging  to  a  particular  group  or  class
      should not be treated differently as amongst themselves  and  no  such
      charge could be levelled against this piece of  legislation.  If  this
      group of working journalists was  specially  treated  in  this  manner
      there is no scope for the objection that  that  group  had  a  special
      legislation enacted for its benefit or that a  special  machinery  was
      created, for  fixing  the  rates  of  its  wages  different  from  the
      machinery employed for other workmen  under  the  Industrial  Disputes
      Act, 1947. The payment of retrenchment  compensation  and  gratuities,
      the regulation of their hours of work and the fixation of the rates of
      their wages as compared with those of other workmen in  the  newspaper
      establishments could also be enacted without any such  disability  and
      the machinery for fixing their rates of wages by way of constituting a
      Wage Board for the purpose could be similarly devised.  There  was  no
      industrial dispute as such which had  arisen  or  was  apprehended  to
      arise as between the employers and the working journalists in general,
      though it could have possibly arisen as between  the  employers  in  a
      particular newspaper establishment and its  own  working  journalists.
      What was contemplated by the provisions of the impugned Act,  however,
      was a general fixation of rates of wages of working journalists  which
      would ameliorate the conditions of their service and the  constitution
      of a Wage Board for this purpose was one of the established  modes  of
      achieving that object. If, therefore, such a machinery was devised for
      their benefit, there was nothing objectionable in it and there was  no
      discrimination as  between  the  working  journalists  and  the  other
      employees of newspaper establishments in that behalf…

      216. … Even considering  the  Act  as  a  measure  of  social  welfare
      legislation the State could only make a  beginning  somewhere  without
      embarking on similar legislations in relation to all other  industries
      and if that was done in this case no charge could be levelled  against
      the State that it was discriminating against one industry as  compared
      with  the  others.  The  classification  could  well  be  founded   on
      geographical basis or be according to objects or  occupations  or  the
      like. The only question for consideration would be whether there was a
      nexus between the basis of classification and the object  of  the  Act
      sought to be challenged.  In  our  opinion,  both  the  conditions  of
      permissible classification were fulfilled in  the  present  case.  The
      classification  was  based  on  an  intelligible   differentia   which
      distinguished  the  working  journalists  from  other   employees   of
      newspaper establishments and that differentia had a rational  relation
      to the object sought to be  achieved  viz.  the  amelioration  of  the
      conditions of service of working journalists.”

20)   The above position has been reiterated by this Court in  the  form  of
observations in Express Publications  (Madurai)  Ltd.  vs.  Union  of  India
(2004) 11 SCC 526.  The relevant portion of the said judgment  is  extracted
hereunder:

        “29…The observations in the judgment were pressed into  service  in
      support of the contention that freedom of speech and expression  would
      be adversely  affected  by  continuing  the  definition  of  “excluded
      employee” in respect of the newspaper industry which has been  singled
      out for harsh treatment. As can be seen from above, observations  have
      been made in a different context. In any case, the decision, far  from
      supporting the contention of the petitioners, in fact,  to  an  extent
      lends support to the benefit that was given to the  employees  of  the
      newspaper industry in the year  1956  as  a  result  of  the  impugned
      provision. It has to be remembered that in spreading information,  the
      employees of newspaper industry play a dominant role  and  considering
      the employees of newspaper industry as a  “class”,  this  benefit  was
      extended almost at the same time when the Working Journalists Act  was
      enacted. Thus, there can be no question of any adverse effect  on  the
      freedom of press. The financial burden on the employer,  on  facts  as
      herein, cannot be said to be a “harsh treatment”. The contention  that
      now the petitioners are unable to bear the financial burden which they
      have been bearing  for  the  last  over  forty-five  years  is  wholly
      irrelevant. It is for the petitioners to manage their affairs if  they
      intend to continue with their activity as newspaper establishment.

           ***              ***              ***

        31. This Court noticed that  the  journalists  are  but  the  vocal
      organs and the necessary agencies for the exercise  of  the  right  of
      free speech and expression and any legislation  directed  towards  the
      amelioration of their conditions of service  must  necessarily  affect
      the newspaper establishments and have its repercussions on the freedom
      of  press.
The  impugned  Act   can,   therefore,   be   legitimately
      characterised as  a  measure  which  affects  the  press  and  if  the
      intention or the proximate effect and operation of the Act was such as
      to bring  it  within  the  mischief  of  Article  19(1)(a),  it  would
      certainly be liable to be struck down.
The real  difficulty,  however,
      in the way of the petitioners is that whatever be the measures enacted
      for the benefit of the working journalists neither the  intention  nor
      the effect and operation of the  impugned  Act  is  to  take  away  or
      abridge the right of freedom of speech and expression enjoyed  by  the
      petitioners.
The question of violation of right of freedom  of  speech
      and expression as guaranteed under Article  19(1)(a)  in  the  present
      case on account of additional burden  as  a  result  of  the  impugned
      provision does not arise.




           ***              ***              ***

        34. In the light of the aforesaid principles, in Express  Newspaper
      the Court considered whether the Act  impugned  therein  violated  the
      fundamental right guaranteed under Article 14. It was observed that in
      framing the Scheme, various circumstances peculiar to the press had to
      be taken into consideration. These  considerations  weighed  with  the
      Press  Commission  in  recommending  special  treatment  for   working
      journalists in the matter  of  amelioration  of  their  conditions  of
      service. The position  as  prevailing  in  other  countries  was  also
      noticed. In a nutshell, the working journalists were held as  a  group
      by themselves and could be classified  as  such.  If  the  legislature
      embarked upon a legislation for  the  purpose  of  ameliorating  their
      conditions of service, there was nothing discriminatory about it. They
      could be singled out for preferential treatment. It  was  opined  that
      classification of this type could not come within the ban  of  Article
      14.
Considering the position in regard to the  alleged  discrimination
      between press industry employers on one hand and the other  industrial
      employers on the other, it was said that even considering the Act as a
      measure of social welfare legislation, the State  could  only  make  a
      beginning somewhere  without  embarking  on  similar  legislations  in
      relation to all other industries and if that was done in this case  no
      charge could be levelled against the State that it was  discriminating
      against one industry as compared with the others.
The  classification
      could well be founded on geographical basis or be according to objects
      or occupations or the like. The only question for consideration  would
      be
whether there was a nexus between the basis of  classification  and
      the object of the Act sought to be achieved. Both  the  conditions  of
      permissible classification were fulfilled. The classification was held
      to be based on  an  intelligible  differentia  which  had  a  rational
      relation to the object sought to be achieved viz. the amelioration  of
      the conditions of  service  of  working  journalists.  The  attack  on
      constitutionality of the Act based on Article 14 was negatived.

        35. Though challenge in the aforesaid case was to special treatment
      to working journalists but what is to  be  seen  is,  that  the  press
      industry was  held  to  be  a  class  by  itself.  The  definition  of
      “newspaper employee” takes into its fold all  the  employees  who  are
      employed to  do  any  work  in,  or  in  relation  to,  any  newspaper
      establishment. The decision in Express Newspaper  case  amply  answers
      the main contention about the press industry having been singled  out,
      against the petitioners. This decision  also  holds  that  to  provide
      social welfare legislation and grant benefit, a beginning  had  to  be
      made somewhere without embarking on similar legislation in relation to
      other industries. The fact  that  even  after  about  half  a  century
      similar benefit has not been extended to the employees  of  any  other
      industry,  will  not  result  in  invalidation  of  benefit  given  to
      employees of press industry. It is not for us to decide  when,  if  at
      all, to extend the benefit to others. In view of the aforesaid, we are
      unable to  accept  the  contention  that  the  impugned  provision  is
      violative of Article 14 on the ground that it  singles  out  newspaper
      industry by excluding income test only in regard to the said industry.

        36. Apart from the fact that it may not be always possible to grant
      to everyone all benefits in one go at the same time, it seems that the
      impugned provision and the enacting of the Working Journalists Act was
      part of a package deal and that  probably  is  the  reason  for  other
      newspaper establishments not challenging it and the  petitioners  also
      challenging it only after lapse of so many  years.  Further,  Sections
      2(i), 4 and Schedule I of the Provident Fund Act  show  how  gradually
      the scope of the Act has been expanded by the Central  Government  and
      the Act and Scheme made applicable to various branches of  industries.
      From whatever angle we may examine, the attack on  the  constitutional
      validity based on Article 14 cannot be accepted.”



Challenge qua Amendment Act, 1974

21)    The  petitioners  herein  have  also  challenged  the  vires  of  the
Amendment Act, 1974 on the ground that extending the benefit of the  Act  to
employees other than working journalists is  against  the  object  that  was
sought to be achieved by the  original  Act  since  the  benefits  to  other
newspaper employees has no rational nexus between the  differentia  and  the
object sought  to  be  achieved.  In  this  regard,  as  already  discussed,
challenge as to the singling out  of  the  newspaper  industry  per  se  was
rejected by the Constitution Bench in Express  Newspaper  (P)  Ltd.  (supra)
and the newspaper industry was held to be a class by itself.  All  that  the
1974 amendment did was to only bring the other employees  of  the  newspaper
industry (i.e. non-working journalists)  into  the  ambit  of  the  Act  and
extend the benefits of the Act to them. Thus, the same is  also  covered  as
per the  reasoning  of  the  Constitution  Bench  decision  of  this  Court.
Therefore, the challenge as to the Amendment Act, 1974 stands disallowed.

22)   Although, the aspect  of  violation  of  Article  14  was  intricately
decided by the Constitution Bench,  it  is  the  stand  of  the  petitioners
herein that while there may have been some justification  for  dealing  only
with newspaper establishments in  1955,  however,  with  the  revolution  in
information technology, there is no justification for  confining  regulation
only to print media as in the existing scenario persons engaged in the  same
avocation (journalism) would be subject to different restrictions and  would
be unreasonably hampered in the social and industrial  relations  with  each
other. Further, it is submitted by the petitioners that  the  classification
between journalists in newspaper establishments and  others  does  not  bear
any relationship with the object. Therefore,  the  continuation  of  such  a
provision would create a disadvantaged class i.e.  newspaper  establishments
without  there  being  a  rational  basis  for  the  same  and  consequently
affecting both the incentive and capacity to achieve the  object  for  which
classification is made. After the very lapse of a long period from the  date
of enactment of the Act and the connected  change  of  circumstances  during
this period has made  the  law  discriminatory  as  it  is  now  arbitrarily
confined to a selected  group  out  of  a  large  number  of  other  persons
similarly situated. Henceforth, it is the stand of the petitioners that  the
grab of constitutionality that the Act may have possessed earlier  has  worn
out and its constitutionality is open to a successful challenge.

23)   While this argument may be as appealing as it sounds, yet we  are  not
inclined to interfere on this point of challenge in order  to  maintain  the
equity among parties. It is important that this Court appreciates the  realm
of Article 14 of the Constitution in the  light  of  the  interest  of  both
employers and the employees and not in one-sided  manner.  The  argument  of
the petitioners that it is violative of Article 14 is  one  version  of  the
story i.e. employers grievance,  whereas  this  Court  must  look  into  the
perspective of employees also while determining the issue at hand.

24)   For the  ensuing  two  reasons,  this  Court  is  opting  for  not  to
interfere on this alleged ground  of  challenge.  Firstly,  the  petitioners
cannot espouse the grievance of those employees working  in  the  electronic
media for non-inclusion and, more particularly,  when  those  employees  are
not before this Court. Secondly, the fact  that  similar  benefits  are  not
extended to the employees of other  similar  industry  will  not  result  in
invalidation of benefit given to the employees of press industry.  Recalling
that media industry is still an upcoming sector unlike the  press  industry,
which is as ancient as our independence  itself,  the  scope  for  potential
policies in future cannot be overruled.  In view of the  same,  this  ground
of challenge is rejected.

25)   As regards the second ground of challenge,  i.e.,  the  Act  over  the
passage of time has outlived its utility and the object that was  sought  to
be achieved originally has become obsolete especially in view  of  the  fact
that Wage Boards for other industries have been abolished, it is our  cogent
opinion that mere passage  of  time  by  itself  would  not  result  in  the
invalidation of the Act and its  object.   The  validity  once  having  been
upheld by a Constitution Bench of this Court in Express Newspapers (P)  Ltd.
(supra), the same cannot be now challenged saying that it has  outlived  its
object and purpose and has been worn  out  by  the  passage  of  time.   The
principles laid down in Motor General Traders vs. State  of  Andhra  Pradesh
(1984) 1 SCC 222 and Ratan Arya vs. State of Tamil Nadu  (1986)  3  SCC  385
are squarely inapplicable as has been  held  in  the  context  of  identical
factual scenario.

26)   When this Court was considering the case of a newspaper  establishment
qua  para  82  of  the  Employees’  Provident  Funds   Scheme   in   Express
Publications (Madurai)  Ltd.  (supra),  the  said  judgment  also  puts  the
challenge as to the vires of the Act like the one made  by  the  petitioners
in  the  present  case,  but  beyond  pale  of  any  doubt,  it  consciously
reiterates the spirit of  law  laid  down  in  Express  Newspaper  (P)  Ltd.
(supra).

27)    The  petitioners  relied  on  the  Report  of  the  Second   National
Commission of Labour to contend that the Act has become  archaic.   In  this
regard, it is relevant  to  note  that  the  aforementioned  Report  is  not
relevant, as the Government has not accepted the said Report insofar as  the
Statutory Wage Boards are concerned.  Thus,  any  observation  in  the  said
Report as to the non-requirement of Wage Boards  generally,  cannot  be  the
basis for not complying  with  the  statutory  obligations  under  the  Act.
Insofar as the 2002 National Commission of Labour Report  is  concerned,  as
stated above, the same has not been accepted by the Government of India,  in
respect of the functioning of the Act.

28)   In the light of the aforesaid discussion, we are of the  opinion  that
the challenge as to the vires of the Act on the premise of  it  being  ultra
vires the  Constitution  and  violative  of  fundamental  rights  is  wholly
unfounded, baseless and completely untenable.

29)   It is true that newspaper industry,  with  the  advent  of  electronic
media, continues to face greater challenges similar to the ones as  observed
by the Press Commission as noted in the Express Newspaper (P)  Ltd.  (supra)
enumerated hereinabove.   Thus,  the  contention  of  the  petitioners  that
though the newspaper industry may be growing, the growth of  the  electronic
media is relatively exponential, in fact, substantiates the  very  necessity
of why a wage board for working journalists and  other  newspaper  employees
of the newspaper industry should exist.

Improper Constitution of the Wage Boards

30)   As reiterated hitherto, the Wage Boards constituted under  Sections  9
and 13C of the Act are required to be  comprised  of  10  members  i.e.  one
Chairman, three independent members,  three  representatives  for  employers
and three representatives  for  employees.  On  behalf  of  the  petitioners
herein (newspaper management), it was contended that there was a  defect  in
the constitution of the Wage Boards as Mr.  K.M.  Sahani  and  Mr.  Prasanna
Kumar  were  not  independent  members  thus,  it   fatally   vitiates   the
constitution and proceedings of the  Majithia  Wage  Boards.  On  the  other
hand, it was pointed out by learned  Solicitor  General  for  the  Union  of
India and the employees that the constitution of the Wage Boards  have  been
undertaken  strictly  in  accordance  with  the  Act  and  the  “Independent
Members”, so required, under Sections 9(c) and 13C(c) of the Act  have  been
appointed in accordance with the law. Let us examine this  point  of  strife
based on the factual matrix.

31)   The  petitioners’  main  ground  of  challenge  to  Mr.  K.M.  Sahni’s
independence is that since at the relevant time he was  a  former  Secretary
of Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of  India  and  during  his
tenure the decision to constitute the Wage Board was  taken  and,  thus,  he
cannot be expected to be an independent and free from bias. It is seen  from
the materials placed on record by the  Union  of  India  that  in  order  to
operationalize the  Boards,  Shri  K.M.  Sahni,  who  had  superannuated  as
Secretary to Government of India on  31.12.2006  was  appointed  as  Member-
Secretary on 24.01.2007 for a period of three years or till the duration  of
the Wage Board, whichever is earlier.  Merely because a person  was  in  the
employment of the Government, he does not cease to become “independent”  for
the purposes of being an independent member of the  Committee  to  recommend
the fixing of wages.

32)   Similar fact underlying this issue  has  been  the  subject-matter  of
this  Court  in  State  of  Andhra  Pradesh   vs.   Narayana   Velur   Beedi
Manufacturing Factory (1973) 4 SCC 178, and it is only necessary to set  out
the summary thereof given by A.N. Grover, J.:

      “9. In our judgment the view which has prevailed with the majority  of
      the High Courts must be sustained. The committee or the advisory board
      can only tender advice which is not binding on  the  Government  while
      fixing the minimum wages or revising the same as the case may  be.  Of
      course, the  Government  is  expected,  particularly  in  the  present
      democratic set-up, to take that advice  seriously  into  consideration
      and act on it but it is not bound to do so. The language of Section  9
      does not  contain  any  indication  whatsoever  that  persons  in  the
      employment of the Government would be excluded from  the  category  of
      independent persons. Those words have  essentially  been  employed  in
      contradistinction to representatives of  employer  and  employees.  In
      other words, apart from the representatives of employers and employees
      there should be persons who should be independent of them. It does not
      follow that persons in the service or employ of  the  Government  were
      meant to be excluded  and  they  cannot  be  regarded  as  independent
      persons vis-à-vis the representatives of the employers and  employees.
      Apart from this the presence of high government officials who may have
      actual working knowledge about the problems of employers and employees
      can afford a good deal of guidance and assistance in  formulating  the
      advice which is to be tendered under  Section  9  to  the  appropriate
      Government. It may be that in certain circumstances such  persons  who
      are in the service of the Government may cease to have an  independent
      character if the question arises of fixation of  minimum  wages  in  a
      scheduled employment in which the appropriate Government  is  directly
      interested. It  would,  therefore,  depend  upon  the  facts  of  each
      particular case whether the persons who have been appointed  from  out
      of the class of independent persons can be regarded as independent  or
      not. But the mere fact that they happen to be government officials  or
      government  servants  will  not  divest  them  of  the  character   of
      independent persons. We are not impressed with the  reasoning  adopted
      that a government official will have a bias, or that he may favour the
      policy which the appropriate  Government  may  be  inclined  to  adopt
      because when he is a member of an advisory committee or  board  he  is
      expected to give an impartial and independent advice  and  not  merely
      carry out what the  Government  may  be  inclined  to  do.  Government
      officials are responsible persons and it cannot be said that they  are
      not capable of taking a detached and impartial view.”


33)   Consequently, merely because  Shri  K.M.  Sahni  was  a  part  of  the
Government that took the decision to  set  up  the  Wage  Boards,  does  not
automatically follow that he ceased to be an  “independent”  member  of  the
Wage Boards. We are satisfied that Shri K.M. Sahni is an independent  member
of the Board and cannot be considered to be “biased” in any manner.

34)   The petitioners also allege  that  Mr.  P.N.  Prasanna  Kumar,  as  an
experienced journalist and having been associated with various  journalistic
institutions in his long journalistic career, cannot be considered to be  an
“independent” member and, therefore, was biased in favour of the  employees.
 Learned Solicitor General has rightly  pointed  out  that  only  vague  and
general  allegations  have  been  alleged  against  him  and   no   specific
allegations that he acted in a manner that was biased against the  employers
has been levied by the petitioners.

35)   It is well-settled that mere apprehension of bias is  not  enough  and
there  must  be  cogent  evidence  available  on  record  to  come  to   the
conclusion.  Reference may be made to Kumaon Mandal  Vikas  Nigam  Ltd.  vs.
Girja Shankar Pant (2001) 1 SCC 182 in the following words:

        “10. The word “bias” in popular English  parlance  stands  included
      within the attributes and broader purview of the word “malice”,  which
      in  common  acceptation  means  and  implies  “spite”  or   “ill-will”
      (Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary, 5th Edn., Vol. 3) and it  is  now  well
      settled that mere general statements will not be  sufficient  for  the
      purposes of indication of ill-will.  There  must  be  cogent  evidence
      available on record to come to the conclusion as to  whether  in  fact
      there was existing  a  bias  which  resulted  in  the  miscarriage  of
      justice.”


36)   This Court, in State of Punjab vs. V.K. Khanna (2001) 2 SCC  330,  has
held as follows:

        “8. The  test,  therefore,  is  as  to  whether  there  is  a  mere
      apprehension of bias or there is a real danger of bias and  it  is  on
      this score that the surrounding circumstances must  and  ought  to  be
      collated and necessary  conclusion  drawn  therefrom.  In  the  event,
      however, the conclusion is otherwise that there  is  existing  a  real
      danger of bias administrative action cannot be sustained.  If  on  the
      other hand allegations pertain  to  rather  fanciful  apprehension  in
      administrative action, question of declaring them to be  unsustainable
      on the basis therefor, would not arise.”


37)   The contention of the petitioners alleging  bias  against  independent
members of the Wage Boards, being based merely  on  their  past  status,  is
entirely baseless in law and  amounts  to  imputing  motives.  Further,  the
petitioners have nowhere established or even averred  that  the  independent
members are guilty of legal bias as expressed  in  Perspective  Publications
vs.  State  of  Maharashtra  (1969)  2  SCR  779,  that  is,  making   their
recommendations  on  the  basis  of  wholly  extraneous  considerations   or
personal or pecuniary benefit.

38)   On perusal of the materials available, we are satisfied that the  Wage
Boards have functioned in a fully balanced manner.  Besides, it  is  a  fact
that the petitioners had challenged  the  constitution  of  the  Wage  Board
before the High Court of Delhi, admittedly, the High Court had  declined  to
grant interim relief.  The said order declining/refusing  to  grant  interim
relief attained finality as the petitioners did not choose to  challenge  it
before this Court.  Thereafter, the petitioners  have  participated  in  the
proceedings and acquiesced themselves with the  proceedings  of  the  Board.
In view of the fact that they have participated in the  proceedings  without
seriously having challenged the constitution as  well  as  the  composition,
the petitioners cannot now be allowed to challenge the same at  this  stage.
More so, it is also pertinent to take note of the fact that the  petitioners
herein opted for challenging the independence of the  nominated  independent
members only after the recommendations by the Wage Boards were  notified  by
the Central Government.

39)   Hence, the attack of  the  petitioners  on  the  independence  of  the
appointed independent members by saying  that  they  were  not  sufficiently
neutral, impartial or unbiased towards the petitioners herein, is  incorrect
in the light of factual matrix and cannot be raised at this  point  of  time
when they willfully conceded to the proceedings. Consequently,  we  are  not
inclined to accept this ground of challenge.

40)   Apart from the challenge to  the  independence  of  the  members,  the
petitioners also contended that two separate Wage Boards ought to have  been
constituted instead of a common wage board.  It is  relevant  to  point  out
that ever since the 1974 amendment  only  a  common  wage  board  was  being
constituted.  The Financial Memorandum accompanying the Working  Journalists
(Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill,  1974
specifically states that “the intention is to constitute Wage  Boards  under
the said Section 9 and proposed Section  13C as far as possible at the  same
time and to have a common Chairman and a common  Secretariat  for  both  the
Boards”.  Further, it is brought to our notice  that  the  Palekar  Tribunal
(1980),  Bachawat  Wage  Board  (1989)  and  Manisana  Wage   Board   (2000)
constituted after 1974 amendment were all common  Boards/Tribunal  for  both
working journalists and non-journalists.  Though  the  members  representing
employers were common, they were not  incapacitated  in  any  manner  as  is
being contended by the petitioners.  They were  having  two  votes  as  they
were representing the employers in both the Boards.

41)   In addition, the representatives from the employers’ side  are  common
in both the Wage Boards as all types of newspaper employees, either  working
journalists or non-journalists found to be working under  common  employers.
Having common representatives of the employers on the two  Wage  Boards  are
expected to  be  favorable  to  the  employers  as  they  can  make  a  fair
assessment  of  the  requirements  of  the  working  journalists  and   non-
journalist newspaper  employees  of  the  newspaper  industry  as  a  whole.
However, as the two Wage Boards have separate  entities  meant  for  working
journalists and non-journalist newspaper employees, there cannot  be  common
representatives  who  can  protect  the  interest  and   represent   working
journalists as  well  as  non-journalist  newspaper  employees.   Therefore,
members representing working journalists were nominated to  the  Wage  Board
for  the  working  journalists.   Similarly,   members   representing   non-
journalist newspaper employees were nominated to the Wage  Boards  for  non-
journalist  newspaper   employees.    As   aforesaid,   for   administrative
convenience, four independent members, including the  Chairman  were  common
for both the Wage Boards.  In our cogent view, this arrangement  in  no  way
affects the interest of the employers and the challenge of  the  petitioners
in this regard is unfounded.

Irregularity in the procedure followed by Majithia Wage Boards

42)   Learned counsel for  the  petitioners  pointed  out  to  a  series  of
factual aspects to  demonstrate  that  there  existed  irregularity  in  the
decision making process by the Majithia Wage Board  which  was  attacked  as
ultra vires the Act and contrary to procedure  adopted  by  the  predecessor
Wage Boards.  In succinct, the stand of the  petitioners  is  that  Majithia
Wage Board Report was prepared in  a  hasty  manner  and  subsequently,  the
recommendations have been accepted by the Central Government without  proper
hearing or affording  opportunity  to  all  the  stakeholders.  Whereas  the
respondent – Union of India clearly contended otherwise and  submitted  that
the impugned Wage Boards throughout adopted a fair procedure,  which  stands
the test of natural justice. Besides, it is the  stand  of  the  respondents
that the representatives of the management were  not  cooperating  but  were
merely attending the Wage Board proceedings,  therefore,  the  Chairman  was
not getting adequate aid and help from the representatives of the  newspaper
owners.

43)   Broadly, the petitioners’ foremost contention is that the Wage  Boards
have not functioned in accordance with the law inasmuch as no  questionnaire
was issued to elicit information to determine the capacity to pay  and  that
principles  of  natural  justice  were  not  followed  in   conducting   the
proceedings  and  for  arriving  at  the  recommendations,  which  was   the
accustomed procedure of previous Wage Boards. At the outset, it is  relevant
to point out that under Section 11(1) of the Act,  Wage  Board  has  special
powers to regulate its own procedure.  It is not  obligatory  for  the  Wage
Boards to follow the exact procedure of the earlier Wage Boards and as  such
there is no requirement in law to follow a strictly laid down  procedure  in
its functioning. Besides, as long as it follows the  principles  of  natural
justice and fairness, its functioning cannot be called into question on  the
ground  of  irregularity  in  the  procedure.  Now,  let  us   examine   the
submissions of the petitioners in this light.

44)   It is brought to our notice that detailed questionnaire was issued  on
24.07.2007.  The petitioners in their opening arguments  contended  that  no
questionnaire was issued.  However, the Union  of  India  placed  voluminous
documents to demonstrate that a detailed questionnaire was  in  fact  issued
on 24.07.2007 and that this questionnaire was  commented  upon  and  it  was
corrected also and further respondents also  received  replies  pursuant  to
the same. The petitioners in  their  rejoinder  have  attempted  to  make  a
feeble argument that the said questionnaire was issued  by  the  secretariat
and not by the Wage Boards, which is fit to be rejected.

45)   It is also brought to our notice that several attempts  were  made  by
the Wage Boards to get the relevant information from the employers but  many
of  the  petitioners  had  not  given  financial  data  and  abstained  from
attending  the  Board’s  proceedings.  Records  produced   show   that   the
questionnaire was sent to all the subscribers listed  in  the  directory  of
newspaper establishments published by INS for the year 2008-09 and the  list
supplied by the PTI for sending financial information from 2000-01 to  2009-
10.  Regular follow up with the employers was made  and  series  of  letters
were  issued   to   collect   financial   information.    Apart   from   the
questionnaire, notices inviting representation as per Section 10(1)  of  the
Act were published in 125 newspapers.  Further, on 05.07.2010, summons  were
issued to around one hundred and forty stake holders  and  they  were  given
final chance to submit the information within fifteen days of  the  summons.
In addition to this, a two page simplified questionnaire was also issued  on
02.03.2010.

46)   Consequently, the allegation that only  40  establishments  have  been
used  as  parameters  which  is  under-representative  of  the  industry  is
incorrect.  In fact, as has been detailed  in  the  Report,  the  data  from
newspaper  establishments  was  not  forthcoming  (vide  pages  100-101   of
Majithia Wage Board Report).  With all these efforts, financial  information
could be collected from only sixty-six establishments  and  after  scrutiny,
it  was  found  that  financial  information  received   from   only   forty
establishments was useful in developing an overall  view  of  the  financial
status of the newspaper industry. Therefore, it was only  upon  much  effort
and repeated requests that the data in respect of  40  establishments  could
be collected by the  Wage  Board.   Besides,  these  40  establishments  are
representatives of the different class of newspaper establishments that  are
carrying on business in the country and in addition detailed submissions  by
representative groups such as the Indian Newspaper Society (INS)  were  also
considered.  Thus, it can certainly be construed that  these  representative
bodies presented an overview of the whole  newspaper  industry,  apart  from
the information being collected from the individual establishments.

47)   From the records, we furnish the following chronology of events:

|   |“Letter dated 28.12.2007 by Mr. Naresh Mohan containing|
|   |“Comments on Draft Questionnaire”                      |
|   |Letters dated 14.01.2008 and 18.01.2008 requesting for |
|   |extension of time for submission of response to        |
|   |questionnaire                                          |
|   |Letter dated 14.02.2008 extending time limit for       |
|   |submission of response to questionnaire till 30.06.2008|
|   |Response of Hitavada Shramik Sangh, Nagpur dated       |
|   |23.06.2008 to the questionnaire                        |
|   |Response of the Times of India and Allied Publications’|
|   |Employees’ Union to the questionnaire                  |
|   |Letters by various Employees’ Union requesting for     |
|   |extension of time for submission of response to        |
|   |questionnaire                                          |
|   |Letter dated 14.11.2008 addressed to all the members of|
|   |the Wage Boards seeking their views on extending the   |
|   |last date for submission of completed questionnaire up |
|   |to 28.02.2009                                          |
|   |Letter dated 04.12.2008 by Mr. Naresh Mohan expressing |
|   |no objection for extending the last date for submission|
|   |of completed questionnaire up to 28.02.2009            |
|   |Letters dated 17.12.2008, 18.12.2008, 19.12.2008       |
|   |addressed to the members of the Wage Board,            |
|   |stakeholders informing extension of last date for      |
|   |submission of completed questionnaire up to 28.02.2009 |
|   |Letters dated 19.03.2009, 08.06.2009, 09.06.2009       |
|   |addressed to the members of the Wage Board,            |
|   |stakeholders informing extension of last date for      |
|   |submission of completed questionnaire up to 30.06.2009 |
|   |Letter dated 03.07.2009 addressed to the Wage Board    |
|   |members to prevail upon their constituents to submit   |
|   |their response to the questionnaire                    |
|   |Response of Lokmat Shramik Sanghatana, Nagpur dated    |
|   |04.02.2009 to the questionnaire                        |
|   |Response of the Tribune Employees Union, Chandigarh    |
|   |dated 25.07.2009 to the questionnaire                  |
|   |Response of National Union of Journalists (India) dated|
|   |31.08.2009 to the questionnaire                        |
|   |Letter dated 01.09.2009 by Chairman, Wage Boards       |
|   |requesting the members of the Wage Boards to prevail   |
|   |upon their constituents to submit their response to the|
|   |questionnaire                                          |
|   |Response of the Press Trust of India Ltd. dated        |
|   |29.09.2009 to the submissions dated 30.06.2009 made by |
|   |Federation of PTI Employees’ Union and to the          |
|   |questionnaire                                          |
|   |Letter dated 12.05.2010 forwarding copies of responses |
|   |to the questionnaire received by the Wage Boards to all|
|   |the members.                                           |
|   |The notice dated 16.11.2007 issued under Sections 10(1)|
|   |and 13D of the Act was published in 125 newspapers     |
|   |Considering the requests and representations received  |
|   |from various stakeholders, the time period for making  |
|   |representation in terms of Sections 10(1) and 13D of   |
|   |the Act was extended till 30.06.2008                   |
|   |The time period for making representation in terms of  |
|   |Sections 10(1) and 13D of the Act was further extended |
|   |till 31.10.2008                                        |
|   |The time period for making representation in terms of  |
|   |Sections 10(1) and 13D of the Act extended till        |
|   |28.02.2009                                             |
|   |The time period for making representation in terms of  |
|   |Sections 10(1) and 13D of the Act was extended till    |
|   |30.06.2009                                             |
|   |The time period for making representation in terms of  |
|   |Sections 10(1) and 13D of the Act was extended till    |
|   |06.08.2009                                             |
|   |Notice dated 09.07.2010 was given to all the           |
|   |stakeholders for final hearing before the Wage Boards  |
|   |on 26.07.2010 to 01.08.2010”                           |


48)   In addition to the  aforesaid  chronology  of  events,  a  perusal  of
Chapter 3 of the Majithia Wage Board recommendations will  clearly  indicate
that the procedure adopted by the Wage  Boards  did,  in  fact,  give  ample
opportunities to the stakeholders  to  give  representations  and  financial
data, etc. so that the same may be considered by the Wage Boards for  making
their  recommendations.   However,  many  of  the  petitioners  have   never
bothered  to  attend  the  proceedings  of  the  Wage  Board  and  submitted
financial data.

49)   The details of the meetings and oral hearings conducted  by  the  Wage
Boards (culled out from the Wage Board proceedings) are as follows:

|“30.06.2007    |First meeting of the wage boards was held.      |
|02-04.08.2007  |Second meeting of the wage boards was held.     |
|16.11.2007     |Notice under Sections 10(1) and 13D of the Act  |
|               |was issued to all newspaper establishments,     |
|               |working journalists, non-journalists newspaper  |
|               |and news agency employees to make representation|
|               |in writing within eight weeks from the date of  |
|               |notice stating the rates of wages which, in the |
|               |opinion of the capacity of the employer to pay  |
|               |the same or to any other circumstance, whichever|
|               |may seem relevant to them.                      |
|08.01.2008     |Government made a reference to Wage Board for   |
|               |fixing interim rate of wages in terms of Section|
|               |13A of the 1955 Act.                            |
|12 & 13.06.2008|Third meeting of the Wage Boards held to discuss|
|               |interim rates of wages                          |
|28.06.2008     |Fourth meeting of the Wage Boards was held to   |
|               |consider the issue of interim rates of wages to |
|               |the employees of the newspaper industry and gave|
|               |its recommendation fixing the interim rate of   |
|               |wages @30% of the basic pay w.e.f. 08.01.2008   |
|03.10.2008     |Cabinet approved the proposal to grant interim  |
|               |rates of wages at the rate of 30% of the basic  |
|               |wage to newspaper employees w.e.f. 8th January, |
|               |2008.                                           |
|24.10.2008     |S.O. 2524(E) and S.O. 2525(E) notification on   |
|               |interim rates of wages published in the Gazette |
|               |of India extraordinary.                         |
|5-6.05.2009    |Fifth meeting of Wage Boards                    |
|31.07.2009     |Sixth meeting of Wage Boards                    |
|07.09.2009     |Seventh meeting of Wage Boards                  |
|               |Oral hearings                                   |
|               |6-10.10.2009 – Oral hearing in Jammu & Kashmir  |
|               |26-27.10.2009 – Oral hearing at Chandigarh      |
|               |8-9.11.2009 – Oral hearing at Patna             |
|14.11.2009     |Eighth meeting of Wage Boards                   |
|               |Oral hearings                                   |
|               |11-12.11.2009 – Oral hearing at Lucknow         |
|               |23-24.11.2009 – Oral hearing at Ahmedabad       |
|               |8-9.12.2009 – Oral hearing at Hyderabad         |
|               |11-13.12.2009 – Oral hearing at Chennai         |
|18.12.2009     |Ninth meeting of Wage Boards                    |
|               |Oral hearings                                   |
|               |29-30.12.2009 – Oral hearing at Bangalore       |
|23.02.2010     |Tenth meeting of Wage Boards                    |
|02.03.2010     |In view of the fact that very few responses were|
|               |received to the detailed questionnaire          |
|               |circulated by the Wage Board, it was decided    |
|               |that a simplified questionnaire requiring       |
|               |information about annual turnover, cost, etc.   |
|               |will be circulated to various newspaper         |
|               |establishments registered with PTI and INS.     |
|               |Accordingly, the simplified questionnaire was   |
|               |sent to various news establishments.            |
|               |Oral hearings                                   |
|               |13-14.03.2010 – Oral hearing at Jaipur          |
|               |27-28.03.2010 – Oral hearing at Bhopal          |
|               |8-10.04.2010 – Oral hearing at Mumbai and Pune  |
|               |27-28.04.2010 – Oral hearing at Bhubaneshwar    |
|07.05.2010     |Eleventh meeting of Wage Boards                 |
|30.06.2010     |Twelfth meeting of Wage Boards                  |
|               |Oral hearings                                   |
|               |12-13.07.2010 – Oral hearing at Kolkata         |
|               |20-21.07.2010 – Oral hearing at Guwahati        |
|               |26.07.2010 to 01.08.2010 – Oral hearing at Delhi|
|               |17-19.08.2010 – Oral hearing at Delhi           |
|               |06.09.2010 – Oral hearing at Delhi              |
|05.07.2010     |Summons dated 05.07.2010 issued under Section   |
|               |11(3)(b) and Section 11(8) of the Industrial    |
|               |Disputes Act, 1947 read with Section 3 of the   |
|               |1955 Act.                                       |
|21.09.2010     |Thirteenth meeting of Wage Boards               |
|22.09.2010     |Fourteenth meeting of Wage Boards               |
|07.12.2010     |Draft report was circulated to all the members  |
|               |of the Wage Board for their comments and views  |
|20-24.12.2010  |Meeting of the Wage Board to discuss the draft  |
|               |report                                          |
|30.12.2010     |Notes of dissent were submitted by              |
|               |Shri K.M. Sahni                                 |
|               |Shri N.K. Trikha, Shri Vikram Rao, Shri Suresh  |
|               |Akhouri (Representatives of working journalists)|
|               |Shri Uma Shankar Mishra, Shri M.S. Yadav, Shri  |
|               |M.C. Narasimhan (Representatives of             |
|               |non-journalists)                                |
|               |Shri Prasanna Kumar                             |
|31.12.2010     |Final Report submitted to Government.”          |


50)   The petitioners’ main ground  of  challenge  vis-à-vis  the  procedure
adopted by the impugned Wage Boards is that they were not  given  reasonable
time to reflect on the issues. However, we have carefully examined  all  the
proceedings of the Wage Boards and we are satisfied  that  the  Wage  Boards
conducted  a  series  of  meetings  and  gave  ample  opportunities  to  the
employers.  The employers were given opportunity of both  written  and  oral
representations to  make  their  point  of  view  known  to  the  Board  and
consequently the decision making process stands valid. In this  respect,  we
are of the view that the petitioners cannot be allowed to take advantage  of
their own wrong and impugn the recommendations of the  Wage  Boards  as  not
being based on their data when they eluded to submit the said  data  in  the
first place.

51)   In respect of the petitioners’ argument that the  ‘Classification’  of
newspaper establishments and newspaper agencies adopted by the  Wage  Boards
is arbitrary and not supported by the majority, it is brought to our  notice
that  a  perusal  of  the  resolution  adopted  on  21.12.2010  shows   that
representatives   of   employees   agreed   for   11   classifications   and
representatives of employers opposed the  said  pattern  of  classification.
Later, the classification of the  newspaper  establishments  was  made  into
eight classes on the basis of Gross Turnover:



|Class          |Gross Revenue                                    |
|I              |Rs. 1000 crore and above                         |
|II             |Rs. 500 crore and above but less than Rs. 1000   |
|               |crore                                            |
|III            |Rs. 100 crore and above but less than Rs. 500    |
|               |crore                                            |
|IV             |Rs. 50 crore and above but less than Rs. 100     |
|               |crore                                            |
|V              |Rs. 10 crore and above but less than Rs. 50 crore|
|VI             |Rs. 5 crore and above but less than Rs. 10 crore |
|VII            |Rs. 1 crore and above but less than Rs. 5 crore  |
|VIII           |Less than Rs. 1 crore                            |


Therefore, if at all anybody is aggrieved by the recommendation of the  Wage
Board to adopt eight classifications,  it  is  the  employees  and  not  the
employers.  Further, no prejudice  is  caused  to  the  employers  and  they
cannot make this as a ground to challenge the report.

52)   The petitioners also contended by relying upon two resolutions  passed
by the  Wage  Board  that  the  Wage  Board  was  not  allowed  to  function
independently and was treated with contempt by the Secretariat of  the  Wage
Board and the officials of the Wage Board.  One of  the  resolutions  relied
upon by the petitioners  dealt  with  an  issue  pertaining  to  raising  of
exorbitant travel bill.  It is brought to our notice that  it  was  in  this
context that the Chairman and Members of  the  Wage  Board  expressed  their
concern that issues pertaining to the Wage  Board  should  not  be  directly
dealt with by the Ministry and it has to be referred to the Ministry by  the
Secretariat after obtaining the  permission  of  the  Chairman.   The  other
resolution/minutes record the proceedings of the meeting with  the  Minister
for Labour and Employment.  These two resolutions cannot be relied  upon  to
contend that the Board was not allowed to  function  independently  and  was
treated with contempt.   These  two  resolutions  have  no  bearing  on  the
ultimate recommendations made by the Board and, thus, cannot be relied  upon
by the petitioners to impugn the recommendations themselves.

53)   Numerous such incidental contentions vis-à-vis  procedure  adopted  by
the Wage Boards were alleged which, in our considered view, is not  of  such
grave nature that it calls  for  withdrawing  the  recommendations  of  Wage
Boards. In this light, after having exhaustively gone through the record  of
proceedings and various written communications, we are fully satisfied  that
the Wage Boards  proceedings  had  been  conducted  and  carried  out  in  a
legitimate approach and no decision  of  the  Wage  Board  is  perceived  to
having been taken unilaterally or arbitrarily.  Rather  all  decisions  were
reached in a coherent manner in the presence of all the Wage  Board  members
after having processed various statistics and we  find  no  irregularity  in
the procedure adopted by the impugned Wage Boards.

Majithia  Wage  Boards  overlooked  the  relevant  aspects  and   considered
extraneous factors while drafting the recommendations

54)   It is the view of the petitioners that the recommendation  of  Justice
Majithia Wage Boards is defective and faulty and deserves to be rejected  at
the outset as it overlooked the relevant aspects and  considered  extraneous
factors while drafting the impugned report. The first ground  on  which  the
report is alleged to be defective is that the  members  of  the  Wage  Board
failed to consider the crucial element of capacity to pay of the  individual
newspaper  establishments  as  it  wrongly  premised  its  analysis  of  the
capacity to pay of ‘gross revenue’ while approving the impugned report.

55)   In Express Newspaper (P) Ltd case (Supra), this Court  held  that  the
capacity  of  the  newspaper  industry  to  pay  is  one  of  the  essential
circumstances to be taken into consideration while  fixing  rates  of  wages
under the Act. In that case, the decision of the Wage Board  was  set  aside
on the ground that it failed to consider the capacity  of  the  industry  to
pay the revised rates of wages. Consequently, Section 10(2) of the  Act  was
inserted which gives the statutory recognition to the requirement of  taking
into consideration the capacity of the employer to pay.

56)   Chapter XIV, titled Capacity to  pay  of  the  Newspaper  industry  (A
Financial Assessment) of the Justice Majithia Report, elaborately  discusses
on the aspect  of  capacity  to  pay.  However,  it  is  the  stand  of  the
petitioners that although the Report purportedly examines  the  capacity  to
pay, such evaluation is directly contrary to  the  principles  and  accepted
material factors which the Report itself identifies as governing  a  legally
sound consideration of the capacity to pay.  The  relevant  portion  of  the
report in pages 101 to 102 is as under:-

      “The gross  revenue  of  newspaper  establishments  comprises  revenue
      through advertisements, circulation  and  other  sources  relating  to
      newspaper   activities   and   miscellaneous   income   accrued   from
      investments, interests, rent etc. The gross revenue can  be  taken  as
      one  of  the  indicators  to  judge  the  health  of   the   newspaper
      establishments.  Strictly  speaking  several  discounted  factors  are
      required to be taken in to consideration from the  gross  revenues  to
      make  actual  assessments   of   the   capacity   of   the   newspaper
      establishments. But in absence of such parameters, it was  decided  to
      rely broadly on gross revenue.”

57)    The  petitioners  major  point  of  reliance  is  surfaced   on   the
observation in the report which acknowledges that there  are  other  factors
along with gross revenue which need to be  considered  for  determining  the
capacity to pay of the establishments which the report  did  not  ultimately
consider thus it will be appropriate to reject the report.

58)   On the other hand, it is the stand of the Union of India that  in  the
absence of availability of such parameters for the  assessment  of  capacity
to  pay  of  the  newspaper  establishments,  it  is   judicially   accepted
methodology to determine the same on the basis of gross revenue  and  relied
on the observations in Indian Express Newspapers (Pvt.) Ltd. (supra):-

        “16…In  view  of  the  amended   definition   of   the   “newspaper
      establishment”  under  Section  2(d)   which   came   into   operation
      retrospectively from the inception of  the  Act  and  the  Explanation
      added to Section 10(4), and in  view  further  of  the  fact  that  in
      clubbing the units of the establishment together, the Board cannot  be
      said to have acted contrary to the law laid  down  by  this  Court  in
      Express  Newspapers  case,  the  classification   of   the   newspaper
      establishments on all-India basis for the purpose of fixation of wages
      is not bad in law. Hence it  is  not  violative  of  the  petitioners’
      rights under Articles  19(1)(a)  and  19(1)(g)  of  the  Constitution.
      Financial capacity of an all-India newspaper establishment has  to  be
      considered on the  basis  of  the  gross  revenue  and  the  financial
      capacity of all the units taken together. Hence,  it  cannot  be  said
      that the petitioner-companies as  all-India  newspaper  establishments
      are not viable whatever the financial incapacity of  their  individual
      units. After amendment of Section 2(d) retrospectively read  with  the
      addition of the Explanation to Section 10(4), the old  provisions  can
      no longer be pressed into service to contend against the  grouping  of
      the units of the all-India establishments, into one class.”


59)    After  perusing  the  relevant  documents,  we  are  satisfied   that
comprehensive and detailed study has been carried out by the Wage  Board  by
collecting all the relevant material information  for  the  purpose  of  the
Wage Revision. The recommendations are arrived at after  weighing  the  pros
and cons of various methods in  the  process  and  principles  of  the  Wage
Revision in the modern era. It  cannot  be  held  that  the  wage  structure
recommended by the Majithia Wage Board is unreasonable.

60)   The other issue in regard to which there was elaborate  submission  is
the issue pertaining to recommendations of the Wage Board in regard to  news
agencies. It is the stand of the petitioners that  even  though  this  Court
had expressly held that news agencies, including PTI, stood  on  a  separate
footing  from  newspapers  inter  alia  because  they  did  not   have   any
advertisement  revenue  and,  hence,  the  wages  will  have  to  be   fixed
separately and independently  for  the  news  agencies,  the  impugned  Wage
Boards failed to take note of the said relevant aspect.

61)   Learned counsel for the respondent contended by stating that  capacity
to pay of news agencies was determined on the basis of the capacity to  earn
of the news agencies in every Wage Board. It was further submitted that  the
burden of revised wages was met by the news agencies on  every  occasion  by
revising the subscription rate. Thereby submitting that  the  recommendation
vis-à-vis the news agencies was a reasoned one.



62)   This Court has a limited jurisdiction to look into  this  aspect.  The
interference is allowed to a limited extent to examine the  question  as  to
whether the Wage Board has considered  the  capacity  to  pay  of  the  News
Agencies. It would be inapposite for this Court to question the decision  of
the specialized board on merits especially when the  Board  was  constituted
for this sole purpose.

63)   The second point of contention of petitioners is  of  introducing  new
concepts such as ‘variable pay’  in  an  arbitrary  manner.        Regarding
variable pay recommended by the Majithia Wage  Board,  learned  counsel  for
the petitioners submitted that there is no basis for  providing  payment  of
variable pay and equally there is no basis for providing variable pay  as  a
percentage of basic pay which makes the payment of variable pay  open-ended.
  According  to  them,  the  recommendation  in  this  regard   is   totally
unreasonable, irrational and places an extra and unnecessary burden  on  the
newspaper establishments.  Consequently,  it  was  asserted  that  there  is
complete non-application of  mind  to  insert  the  so-called  variable  pay
concept (similar to Grade Pay of Sixth Pay Commission) in the Majithia  Wage
Board’s recommendation, even though the  basic  conditions,  objectives  and
anomalies are absent.

64)   However, the stand of the respondents is that there  is  gradation  of
variable pay and allowances according to  the  size  of  the  establishments
wherein smaller establishments are required to pay at a lower rate  compared
to larger establishments.  It may be pointed out that in the  Manisana  Wage
Board, which is the predecessor to  the  Majithia  Board,  did  recommend  a
similar dispensation though it did not specifically call  it  variable  pay.
Manisana Wage Board recommended a certain percentage of basic  pay  for  the
newspaper employees, which is similar to variable pay in the  Majithia  Wage
Board recommendations.  While such dispensation was included  in  the  basic
pay in the Manisana Wage  Board  instead  of  being  shown  separately,  the
Majithia Wage Board categorized “basic pay” and “variable  pay”  separately.
Accordingly, the concept of “variable pay” is not newly  introduced,  though
the terminology may have differed in  Manisana  and  Majithia  Wage  Boards.
The  Wage   Boards   have   followed   well-settled   norms   while   making
recommendations about variable pay.  Further,  the  explanation  to  Section
2(eee) which defines “wages” specifically includes within the  term  “wages”
“new allowances”, if any, of  any  description  fixed  from  time  to  time.
Therefore, the Wage Board was well  within  its  jurisdiction  to  recommend
payment of ‘variable pay’.

65)   There was  also  a  submission  on  behalf  of  the  petitioners  that
Majithia Wage Board has simply  copied  the  recommendations  of  the  Sixth
Central  Pay  Commission,  which  is  not  correct.    We   have   carefully
scrutinized all the details.  It is clear that the  recommendations  of  the
Sixth Central Pay Commission have not been blindly imported/relied  upon  by
the Majithia Wage Board.  The concept of ‘variable  pay’  contained  in  the
recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission  has  been  incorporated
into the Wage Board recommendations only to ensure that  the  wages  of  the
newspaper employees are  at  par  with  those  employees  working  in  other
Government sectors.  Such incorporation was made by the Majithia Wage  Board
after careful consideration, in  order  to  ensure  equitable  treatment  to
employees of newspaper establishments, and it was well within its rights  to
do so.

66)   It is further seen that the Wage Board has recommended grant  of  100%
neutralization of dearness allowance.   Fifth  Pay  Commission  granted  the
same in 1996.  Since then, public sector undertakings, banks  and  even  the
private sector are all granting 100% neutralization of  dearness  allowance.
The reference to decisions prior to 1995 is irrelevant.

67)   Lastly, the contention of the petitioners that the  Wage  Boards  have
not  taken  into   account   regional   variations   in   submitting   their
recommendations is also not correct.  It is clear from the report  that  the
Wage Boards have categorized the HRA and Transport Allowance into X,  Y  and
Z category regions, which  reflects  that  the  cost  on  accommodation  and
transport in different regions in the country was considered.   Furthermore,
there is gradation of variable pay and allowances according to the  size  of
the establishments wherein smaller establishments are required to pay  those
at a lower rate compared to larger establishments.  Hence, we are  satisfied
that the Wage Boards followed certain well laid down  principles  and  norms
while making recommendations.

68)   It is true that the Wage Boards have  made  some  general  suggestions
for effective implementation of Wage Awards which  is  given  separately  in
Chapter 21 of the Report of the Majithia Wage Boards of Working  Journalists
and Non-Journalists Newspaper and News Agency Employees.  It is  brought  to
our notice that the  Government  has  not  accepted  all  these  suggestions
including those pertaining to  retirement  age,  pension,  paternity  leave,
etc. as these are beyond the main objective for which the Wage  Boards  were
constituted.  Regarding fixation of pay, assured career  development,  there
have been proposals in the  recommendations  which  are  in  the  manner  of
providing higher pay scale after  completion  of  certain  number  of  years
which  cannot  be  treated  as  time  bound   promotion.    Similarly,   the
establishments have also been categorized on the basis  of  their  turnover,
thus, taking into consideration the capacity of  various  establishments  to
pay.

69)   It is useful to refer Section 12 of  the  Act  which  deals  with  the
powers of Central Government to enforce recommendations of the  Wage  Board.
It reads as under:

        “12 - Powers of Central Government to  enforce  recommendations  of
      the Wage Board
        (1) As soon as may be, after the receipt of the recommendations  of
      the Board, the Central Government shall make an order in terms of  the
      recommendations or subject to such modifications, if any, as it thinks
      fit,  being  modifications  which,  in  the  opinion  of  the  Central
      Government, do not effect important alterations in  the  character  of
      the recommendations.
        (2) Notwithstanding anything  contained  in  sub-section  (1),  the
      Central Government may, if it thinks fit,--
        (a) make such  modifications  in  the  recommendations,  not  being
      modifications of the nature referred to  in  sub-section  (1),  as  it
      thinks fit:
        Provided that before making any  such  modifications,  the  Central
      Government shall cause notice to be given to all persons likely to  be
      affected thereby in such manner as may be prescribed, and  shall  take
      into account any representations which they may make in this behalf in
      writing; or
        (b) refer the recommendations or any part thereof to the Board,  in
      which  case,  the  Central  Government  shall  consider  its   further
      recommendations  and  make  an  order   either   in   terms   of   the
      recommendations or with such modifications of the nature  referred  to
      in sub-section (1) as it thinks fit.
        (3) Every order made by the Central Government under  this  section
      shall  be  published  in  the  Official  Gazette  together  with   the
      recommendations of the Board relating to the order and the order shall
      come into operation on the  date  of  publication  or  on  such  date,
      whether prospectively or retrospectively, as may be specified  in  the
      order.”


70)      Thus, it is the prerogative of the Central Government to accept  or
reject the recommendations of the  Wage  Boards.   There  is  no  scope  for
hearing the parties once again by the Central Government while accepting  or
modifying the recommendations, except that the  modifications  are  of  such
nature  which  alter  the  character  of  the   recommendations   and   such
modification is likely to affect the parties.  The mere  fact  that  in  the
present case, the Government has not accepted  a  few  recommendations  will
not automatically affect the validity of the entire  report.   Further,  the
Government  has  not  accepted  all  those   suggestions   including   those
pertaining to retirement age, etc. as  these  are  beyond  the  mandate  for
which the Wage Boards were constituted.  Regarding fixation of pay,  assured
career development, there have been proposals in the  recommendations  which
are in the manner of providing higher pay scale after completion of  certain
number of years which cannot be treated as time bound promotion.

71)   Accordingly, we hold that the recommendations of the Wage  Boards  are
valid in law, based on genuine and acceptable considerations  and  there  is
no valid ground for interference under Article 32  of  the  Constitution  of
India.

72)   Consequently, all the writ petitions are dismissed with  no  order  as
to costs.

73)   In view of our conclusion and dismissal of  all  the  writ  petitions,
the wages as revised/determined shall be payable from  11.11.2011  when  the
Government of India  notified  the  recommendations  of  the  Majithia  Wage
Boards.  All the arrears up to March, 2014 shall be  paid  to  all  eligible
persons in four equal instalments within a period of  one  year  from  today
and continue to pay the revised wages from April, 2014 onwards.
74)   In view of the disposal of the writ petitions, the  contempt  petition
is closed.
                                                          ……….…………………………CJI.

                                   (P. SATHASIVAM)








                                ..…….……………………………J.


                                   (RANJAN GOGOI)














                                ……….……………………………J.


                                   (SHIVA KIRTI SINGH)

NEW DELHI;
FEBRUARY 07, 2014.

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