w w w . L a w y e r S e r v i c e s . i n

The Management of the Hindu (Messrs Kasturi & Sons United), 201-A, Kasturi Buildings, Mount Road v/s The Presiding Officer, Labour Court (Principal), Madras & Others

    W.P. No. 75 of 1974 and W.P. No. 627 of 1974 to W.P. No. 629 of 1974
    Decided On, 19 September 1975
    At, High Court of Judicature at Madras
    For the Appellant : M.R. Narayanaswami, M. Krishnappan, Advocate. For the Respondents : M.R. Narayanaswami, M.K. Nambiar for V. Manivannan, Advocates, S. Ramalingam, Assistant Government Pleader.

Judgment Text
In exercise of the powers conferred on them by section 9 of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 (Central Act XLV of 1955), as amended (hereinafter referred to as the Act) the Central Government constituted a Wage Board by a notification datedl2th November, 1953, for the purpose of fixing or revising the rates of wages in respect of working journalists in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The Wage Board consisted of representatives of the employers in relation to newspaper establishments, working journalists and independent persons. On receipt of the recommendations of the Wage Board, the Government of India made an order under section 12 of the Act and it was notified on 27th October, 4967. By virtue of the provisions of section 13, on the coming into operation of the order of the Central Government under section 12, every working journalist became entitled to be paid by his employer wages at the rates specified therein. In the recommendations of the Board, the working journalists were classified and grouped for the purpose of fixing their rates of wages. One such grouping is found in paragraph 4.24 (I) (a) III of the Recommendations, which reads as follows:

'Reporter, Sub-Editor, Correspondent, News Photographer, Calligraphist, Artists, Librarians and Index Assistants and all Working Journalists other than those mentioned under any other group unless placed higher by the establishment. '

The newspaper establishments were also classified into various classes, which need not detain us here. Schedule I to the Recommendations defines certain word-used in the Recommendations. 'Librarian or Index Assistant ' is defined as 'a person who prepares and maintains matters relating to news and views which are used as background or filled out for current stories’ and it is further added that ' persons not performing any of these functions shall not be covered'. On the ground that they are Index Assistants, eleven of the employees of the Management of the Hindu made a demand for payment of the amounts due to them as per the Wage Board's Recommendations. One other employee, claiming himself to be an Assistant Librarian, also made a demand for payment on the basis of the Wage Board's Recommendations. They also communicated to their employers their option for the new scab of pay under the Wage Board's Recommendations in accordance with Paragraph 4.32.6 thereof. Since their claims were not accepted or complied with, they filed applications under section 17 to the State Government, for the recovery of the amounts due to them. Since the management contested the claims of the said employees, the Government, in G.O. Rt. No. 570, Labour, dated 5th July, 1967, referred under section 17 (2) the question of recovery of the sums to the Labour Court, Madras, for adjudication. It was contended by the Management before the Labour Court that a Wage Board constituted under the Act could fix or revise the rates of wages in respect of 'Working Journalists' as defined in the Acts and they had no jurisdiction to go beyond the definition or create fresh categories of persons not covered by the definition and confer on them the statute of Working Journalists so as to be eligible for the benefits under the Wage Order. They further contended that these employees were appointed as clerks, that they are doing only clerical duties in the Index Department, that they are not preparing or maintaining matters relaing to news and views which are used as background or filled out for current stories and that therefore they do not satisfy the definition of 'Librarian or Index Assistant.'

2. The Labour Court accepted originally the contention of the Management that the Wage Board had no jurisdiction to categorise Librarians and Index Assistants as. working journalists and in that view, by an order dated 19th December, 1971, held that the employees were not entitled to-the reliefs prayed for by them. Aggrieved by this award, the employees filed W.P. No. 1146 of 1971 under Article 226 of the Constitution. This Writ petition was allowed on the ground that the Labour Court had exceeded its jurisdiction in declaring that the Wage Board could not have included Index Assistants in the category of Working Journalists. This order of the learned single Judge was confirmed in appeal and the petition for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was also not successful. While disposing of the writ appeal, this Court also directed the Labour Court to decide the question, whether the employee in this case satisfied the definition of the Wage Board for ' Librarian or Index Assistant ' on the basis of the evidence on record. In the revised order of the Labour Court dated 20th November, 1973 it was held that except in respect of three of the employees, the duties performed by them clearly satisfied the functional definition of ' Index Assistant ' contained in the Recommendations of the Wage Board and that therefore they were entitled to the amounts claimed by them. Out of the three employees whose petitions were rejected, the Labour Court held that two were merely Photo Filing Clerks attached to the Index section, that their function was only to file photos, both published and unpublished, and supply them as and when required in any department and that therefore they cannot be fitted in the definition given by the Wage Board. The third man was held to be merely a clerk who assisted a Librarian under whom he worked and therefore it was held that he could not claim, the status of a Working Journalist. As against the finding that nine of the employees satisfied the definition of Index Assistant in the Recommendations of the Wage Board, the Management has filed W.P. No. 75 of 1974. The employee who was held to be an Assistant to the Librarian and not a Working journalist has filed W.P. No. 627 of 1974, challenging the finding of the Labour Court. The other two employees, who were held to be more Photo Clerks, have filed W.P. Nos. 628 and 629 of 1974. In all these writ petitions, the prayer is for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the Labour Court m so far as it is against them.

3. The main argument of the counsel for the Management in respect of all these employees was that they were appointed only as clerks, that they are designated as clerks and that they are doing only clerical duties in the Index Department. Their duties are to arrange and maintain subject wise an index of published news items and cuttings of important items of news. They do not prepare and maintain any back-ground material for the use of the Editorial Department. It was further contended that the Photo Filing Clerk attached to the Index Department docs not have any function, apart from filing of photos, both published and unpublished, and supplying them as and when required in any department. Thus, none of them perform any of the functions assigned to the Index Assistant in the Wage Board's Recommendations and that therefore they are not entitled any benefit as per their recommendations.

4. In the Recommendations, the Wage Board has clearly stated in paragraph 4.26 that it is the principal duties performed by an employee that should determine the category of such employee and that neither the designation nor casual or occasional work should be taken into account for such categorisation. Therefore if the employees in the instant case are doing the functions referred to in the definition of Index Assistant, the mere fact that they were employed onginally as clerks and were designated as such would not be of any consequence. The main question, therefore, for consideration is whether all these employees satisfy the functional definition of ' Librarian or Index Assistant' given by the Wage Board in their Recommendation. That definition has already been extracted. To me, the meaning of this definition is neither obscure nor complicated. 'Current Stories' referred to in that paragraph are articles or leaders or news items on current state of affairs, events, matters, topics, issues, problems, solutions to problems and so forth. The dictionary meaning given to the term ' story' is, among others, ' narrative of incidents in their sequence, a theme, account, report or statement or allegation or a newspaper article.' This ' current story ' is written by a person in the Editorial Department. For preparation of these current stories, the writers may require background material from which they could spin out their views or for such other purpose including accuracy in statement and complete news. These background materials have, therefore, to be from the sources already in existence. A person who prepares and maintains these background materials is designated as ‘Index Assistant or Librarian' in the Recommendations of the Wage Board. It was the contention on the learned counsel for the Management that preparation and maintenance contemplated in the definition is not indexing or classifying matters relating to news and views which had already appeared in the press and furnishing the same as and when required but refers to matters of original nature prepared and maintained by such persons. I am unable to agree with this restricted meaning given by the learned counsel for the Management. There is nothing in the definition that the matters relating to news and views which are used as background material or filled out matter should not have been published ones-All the materials which help the preparation with accuracy and completeness or enliven the current story, could, certainly form the background material, whether they are published or unpublished recorp or original thinking. The words ‘prepares and maintains’ are also of wide amplitude in their meaning and may cover a wide range of activities. Collection of material, sifting the mass of details, identifying the relevant material useful for future reference, arranging itemwise. codifying and indexing such material in an orderly manner and finally locating the required information at a moment's notice as a computer does, would certainly amount, in my opinion, to preparation and maintenance of such matters.

5. The evidence of P.Ws. 1 to 4 and the documents Exhibits P-1 to P-24 show that all these employees are concerned with the preparation and maintenance of matters relating to news and views which are used as background material. They perform the following functions as found in the evidence: They receive many pamphlets, bulletins, magazines, periodicals, gazettes, bills, etc., either sent from the Assistant Editor or otherwise. They divide the published items into Indian News, Foreign News, legal items, sports, special articles, photos, maps and cartoons and also mofussil items and clippings of the published items. These are also taken out on the basis of the importance of the subject. For Indian News, they study the items and decide what is important and reject such things as are not important. From the important news and views, they prepare a list of them and record them in a note book. In respect of some specialised subjects like commerce and finance, the figures relating to production, export, import and loan agreements are selected from both the Hindu paper as also from press bulletins, handouts and other magazines. They make clippings of these and make them readily available to the Editorial Department whenever they ask for them. Nobody gives instructions to them as to how these materials are to be gathered. The employees use their initiative in accordance with their importance. They do not confine their work to the materials published in the Hindu, but also get matters from other papers, magazines and bulletins. The Management had not laid down any duties for them in writing. They maintain registers like the Index Volumes, Reference Register, General Information File, File relating to abbreviations and expressions, Cutting Lending Register, Photo Book, Reference File, Profile Folders, Magazine Register and various other types of similar, easily referable registers. In the Index Volume, they also make cross-references. For example, when a person speaks about a particular subject, they refer to the earlier speech on the same subject by someone also. In the General File, they make note of important events that had taken place some years ago and-which are often asked by the Editorial Department as well as outsiders. P.W.1 has given some illustrative examples of the information available there viz., how many times Gandhiji visited South India, when the yellow 2 anna coins ceased to be legal tender, when Indian time was advanced and when it was restored and when Madras was shelled by Emden, when the first satellite was launched and similar other important events. In the reference File, they enter the information Relating to specialised subjects like commerce and finance. From the Cutting Lending Register, they could supply biographies, background materials on particular subjects and similar matters. The Photo Book covers both published and not published photos. In the Profile Folders, Profiles of important personalities are gathered. From the magazines valuable and useful material for the Editorial Department, whenever they ask for them, are supplied. When these employees in the Index Department receive querries from the Editorial Writer, Assistant Editors, Sub-Editors, and Reporters, either in writing or through telephone, these employees, after referring to the subject, date and other particulars, trace the particulars required and supply them to the concerned person at very short notice. The Index Department is so huge and efficient that even the Management in their pamphlet Exhibit P-23 containing the story of the Hindu, have referred to the work of this Index Department thus: ' The accuracy and background material is provided by a giant Index Department which can trace any event or comment going back to the last eighty years within a matter of minutes. There is also a big Reference Library, one of the best in the country, as also a morgue therein which is filled with over 10,000 pictures which are used to enliven the news'. These uncontradicted pieces of evidence clearly show that they are not doing merely clerical work, but that their work is in nature of preparing and maintaining matters relating to news and views which are used as background material on later occasions.

6. In respect of the two employees who are in the Photo Filing Section attached to the Index Department, the learned counsel for the Management also contended that the photos could not be said to be materials relating to news and views and that whatever may be said about the other persons employed in the Index Department, they could not be said to be preparing and maintaining any material relating to news and views which form the background matter of current story. I am unable to agree with the learned counsel that a photograph will not be a matter relating to news or views or that it could not from a background for a current story. The facial reaction or appearance of a person in a particular situation would certainly amount to news. How a certain expert or master in a sport meets a challenging situation would also amount to news and it is not necessary for us to multiply instances as I am convinced that even photographs would be matters relating to news and views and would form the background material. In fact, in the story of the Hindu referred to above, the photos or pictures which are collected are stated to be used to enliven the news. These two employees, who are incharge of these photographs, also in their own way classify these photographs, index them in the rear, pick out the relevant photo and supply it to the Editorial Department whenever required. Though their functions might not be said to be as taxing or demanding intelligence, as in the other staff in the Index department, still they are doing the same functions as the Index Assistants and there is nothing to distinguish them from the others. The Tribunal has not given any reason as to why the Assistant Librarian was held not entitled to the claim made by him. He was referred to only as a clerk and it was stated that there is a separate Librarian in the library. But, in his evidence as P.W. 2, this Assistant Librarian has also stated that he classifies the books, periodicals, magazines and other materials according to subject, place and other particulars. He also selects important items, and makes out clippings, if necessary. He supplies information to the Editorial Department from the books, periodicals and other materials. Having regard to this evidence, I am satisfied that he is also entitled to the benefits of the Recommendations of the Wage Board.

7. One other argument advanced by the learned counsel for the Management was that though t

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here are twelve claimants, only four of them have gone to the witness box and that therefore the claims of the persons who have not given evidence should be rejected. According to the learned counsel, the evidence of these witnesses relates to the duties performed by them alone and in the absence of any evidence relating to the duties of the other employees, they are not entitled to claim the benefits of the Wage Board Recommendations. I am unable to agree with this contention of the learned counsel. The evidence of P.Ws. 1 and 3 related to the functions of all these employees and was not restricted to their own. In. fact, in the beginning of the evidence of P.W. 1, he referred to the fourteen persons working in the section, of whom twelve are the petitioners. He also stated that they are having shifts as in the Editorial Department. In respect of the functions, he always referred to the persons in plural and he did not restrict the evidence to himself. In some places, he also stated that they are all working on a co-operative basis in furnishing the information required. It should also be pointed out that though the evidence stated that there was a co-operative effect and the evidence related to the general work of all the employees in that section nobody from the Management had gone into the box to discredit the evidence. I am, therefore, satisfied that the evidence of P.Ws. 1 and 3 applied to the other employees as welt and this contention of the learned counsel for the Management is not tenable. 8. In view of a my above findings, W.P. No. 75 of 1974 is liable to be dismissed and the other three petitions are to be allowed. 9. Accordingly, W.P. No. 75 of 1974 is dismissed and the rule nisi is discharged.The other writ petitions are allowed and the rule nisi is made absolute. There will be no order as to costs it all these writ petitions.