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The Supreme Court today said the part implementation and non-implementation of the Majithia Wage Board award on pay structures of journalists and non- journalists by some newspaper establishments would not amount to wilful default attracting contempt. The court also said the award has been approved by it in its judgment on February 7, 2014 and, therefore, has to be "implemented in full". Granting one more opportunity for implementation of the Wage Board award and its judgement, the court said non-implementation or partial implementation clearly stemmed from the understanding of the award by the concerned newspaper establishments in a particular manner. The apex court was delivering its judgement while disposing off 83 contempt petitions filed by journalists, non-journalists and associations. "At best, the default alleged has taken place on account of a wrong understanding of the Award as upheld by this court. This would not amount to wilful default so as to attract the liability of civil contempt as defined under Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. "The default alleged though is unmistakably evident to us, in the absence of any wilful or deliberate intention to commit the same cannot make any of the newspaper establishment liable for contempt. On the other hand, they are entitled to one more opportunity to implement the Award in its proper spirit and effect in the light of what we now propose to say," a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha said. It said clause 20(j) of the award read with Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, guarantees to each "newspaper employee" as defined under the Act the entitlement to receive wages as recommended by the Wage Board and approved and notified by the Central Government. "The wages notified supersedes all existing contracts governing wages as may be in force.
However, the legislature has made it clear by incorporating the provisions of Section 16 that, notwithstanding the wages as may be fixed and notified, it will always be open to concerned employee to agree to and accept any benefits which is more favourable to him than what has been notified under the Act," it said. The court said there was nothing either in the Act or in the terms of the wage board award which would enable it to hold that the benefits of the award would be "restricted to regular employees and not contractual employees". It also said "variable pay" concept has been incorporated in the award in order to give a fair and equitable treatment to employees of newspapers and news agencies. The bench said since it has been held that none of the newspaper establishments in the facts of the cases before it, was guilty of contempt, the complaints with regard to non- implementation of the Award or otherwise would be dealt by the mechanism provided under the Act itself. The apex court had on February 7, 2014, upheld the recommendations of Majithia Wage Board for journalists and non-journalists on their pay structure and directed that the revised salaries be granted to the employees. The 6th (Majithia) Wage Board was constituted by the Labour Ministry in 2007 despite strong reservations from the newspaper industry. The award has led to additional financial burden for the industry, according to newspaper establishments.