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Management of the Hindu, Kasturi and Sons Ltd. Vs. State of Madras Represented by the Secy. Labour Dept. and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMedia and Communication;Labour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Appeal Nos. 39 to 47 of 1962
Judge
Reported inAIR1964Mad412
ActsWorking Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958 - Sections 2
AppellantManagement of the Hindu, Kasturi and Sons Ltd.
RespondentState of Madras Represented by the Secy. Labour Dept. and ors.
Appellant AdvocateR. Ramamurthi Aiyar and ;K. Sundararajan, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateAddl. Govt. Pleader and ;K.V. Saakaran, Adv.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredHindu v. Their Workers
Excerpt:
.....against order of labour court which computed amounts due to copy holders on basis that they were proof readers - copy holders claimed to be proof readers coming under class of persons mentioned under working journalists (fixation of rates of wages) act, 1958 - held, proof reader and copy holder perform same nature of work - hence, copy holder will come under group iv of scheme of wages prescribed under recommendations of wage committee appointed under working journalist (fixation of rate of wages) act, 1958 - entitled to get wages as that of proof readers - appeal dismissed. - - in other words, printed proofs at the stage of the author's final galley and page proofs are distributed for correction not merely to proof readers but to copy-holders as well. the only question that..........publication whether it be in the form of manuscript or typed script goes through four stages of proof correction before it is finally incorporated in the final publication. the first or what is called the rough proof is checked up with the manuscript or typed script by two sets of persons acting together, namely, the proof readers and the copyholders. the latter reads out the matter given for printing, while the proof-reader follows the same with the printed proof in his hands. the proof reader who is acquainted with the symbols employed in proof correction, makes the corrections wherever necessary both with a view to bring it in conformity with the original and also to correct mistakes in printing. this dual agency for the correction of first proof, we are told is employed only in a.....
Judgment:

S. Ramachandra Iyer, C.J.

1. These are appeals under Cl. 15 of the Letters Patent against the judgment of Veeraswami J. in batch of writ petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution by the management of the Hindu for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the orders passed by the Labour Court, Madras Under Section 9(2) of the Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages} Act (XXiX of 1958) directing the payment of certain, sums by the management to the third respondent in the several appeals. The latter are being employed as copyholders in the press. The management have prescribed a graded system of wages to them. Their work is associated with the correction of proofs in the preparation of the daily newspaper run by it. In. preparing the daily, the matter taken up for publication whether it be in the form of manuscript or typed script goes through four stages of proof correction before it is finally incorporated in the final publication. The first or what is called the rough proof is checked up with the manuscript or typed script by two sets of persons acting together, namely, the proof readers and the copyholders. The latter reads out the matter given for printing, while the proof-reader follows the same with the printed proof in his hands. The proof reader who is acquainted with the symbols employed in proof correction, makes the corrections wherever necessary both with a view to bring it in conformity with the original and also to correct mistakes in printing. This dual agency for the correction of first proof, we are told is employed only in a few newspapers among whom the 'Hindu' is one. That undoubtedly facilitates quicker dispatch of work. The rough proof thus corrected goes to the press again for a second proof called the author's final. After the correction of that proof the third proof known as final galley emerges from the press. That again is corrected and the fourth proof called the page proof comes for the final correction. Except at the stage of the rough proof in the correction of which the copy-holder does only the reading part of the comparison and correction in all the subsequent stages of the work the duties pertaining to correction of proof are given to the copyholders as welt as the proof reader indiscriminately. In other words, printed proofs at the stage of the author's final galley and page proofs are distributed for correction not merely to proof readers but to copy-holders as well.

2. The respondents in these several appeals occupying the specified category as copyholders on the staff, claiming that they were proof readers within the class of persons so designated in the recommendations of the Wages Committee appointed under the Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958 and as such entitled to receive emoluments applied to the State Government for recovery of arrears of salary due to them on that basis (after giving credit to the actual amounts received by them from the management). The Government in due course referred the applications for adjudication to the Labour Court at Madras. The management contested the applications stating that the copyholders could never be regarded as proof readers. This objection has been overruled by the Labour Court which computed the amounts due to the employees on the basis that they were proof readers and directed the management to pay the same to the respective persons. A certificate Under Section 9(1) of the 1958 Act by the State Government followed.

3. The validity of the order of the Labour Court and of the certificate, was challenged in this court under Article 228 of the Constitution before Veeraswami J. The learned Judge has upheld the decision of the Labour Court and hence these appeals. The only question that arises for determination in these appeals is, whether the respondents fail within the category of proof readers for whom scales of nay and grades have been fixed by the Wage Committee appointed under the Working Journalists Act, 1958. The contention for the management is that as there is no specific provision in the recommendations for a copyholder he would not be entitled to the benefit thereunder.

Ordinarily where an employee under a contract of employment is designated as holding a particular post it will not be open to him to claim that the duties performed by him pertain to some other category and that he should, therefore, be regarded as holding that post to which such duties are appropriate, and not the one to which his employer appointed him. But this rule cannot apply in all its rigour where a comprehensive system of wages for the workers in an establishment has been evolved by an industrial award and the like, or as in this case by a statutory authority. In such a case it will be the duty of the employer and of any other authority concerned with the matter to determine under which category of wage structure, a particular employee falls and determine his wages or salary accordingly. Where an award or statutory report etc. does not in terms provide a wage formula in respect of a particular category it must not be automatically presumed that they have omitted to provide for the case; regard should then be had to the principal as contrasted with the casual, occasional or incidental duties performed by the employee, and his salary determined on that basis. Indeed this rule has been accepted by the Wage Committee itself for interpretation of its recommendation to individual cases. Paragraph 25 of Ch. III of the Recommendations states :

'The principal duties performed by an employee should determine the category of such employee, neither designation nor casual or occasional work should be taken into account for such categorisation.'

4. Before we refer to the actual Recommendations of the Committee, we have to digress a little into the historical background of the Recommendations and to one decision of this court.

5. In the year 1955 the Central Legislature passed the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1955. that will be referred to hereafter as the Act of 1955. That Act came into force on 20-12-1955. The Wage Board constituted under that enactment in the following year, fixed scales of pay for the working journalists. The validity of the decision of the Board was impugned by the management of certain newspapers before the Supreme Court by applications under Article 32 of the Constitution. By the judgment of that court dated 19-8-1958, the proceedings of the Wage Board, (the decisions therein having been found to have been arrived at without consideration of the capacity of the employers to pay salaries) were quashed. In so doing the Supreme Court laid down the principle which should generally guide the statutory authority entrusted with the matter of fixation of salaries of the working journalists. The judgment is reported in Express Newspapers v. Union of India, : (1961)ILLJ339SC .

6. Soon thereafter, an Ordinance called as Working Journalists (fixation of Rates of Wages) Ordinance was issued with a view to enable the fixation of wages of working journalists in accord with the principles laid down in the above case by the Supreme Court. This Ordinance was duly replaced by an enactment bearing substantially the same Short Title (29 of 1958) to which we have made reference earlier. Even under the ordinance a Wage Committee had been appointed for the purposes envisaged. That Committee continued to function under the enactment that followed the Ordinance. The Wage Committee in due course made its recommendations. They were in the main accepted by the Central Government and by virtue of the powers vested in the Government Under Section 6 of the 1958 Act, an order in terms of the recommendations so accepted was pissed. That order came into force on 1st June 1956. The order made obligatory upon the management of newspapers to pay wages to the several categories of their employees in accordance with the recommendations thus accepted. Confining ourselves to the daily newspapers for the moment, the Committee classified them into six divisions in accordance with the gross income that the particular newspaper earned. We may incidentally mention that the Hindu occupying as it does, a pre-lemenent position amongst the newspapers of this country has been placed in the A Class. The working journalists were also categorised in the Recommendations into groups, they beling roughly divided into four groups; wages, scales and grades with respect to such group appropriate to the particular class of newspaper, were specified in the report. Proof readers, for example, come under group 4 in A Class newspapers. They were fixed in the grade of Rs. 125-300 per month. The increase being by annual increments. The Schedule to the Wage Committee Recommendations functional definitions has stated with reference to group 4.

'Proof reader is a person who checks up printed matter or 'proof with editor copy to ensure strict conformity of the former with the latter. Factual discrepancies, slips of spelling, mistakes of grammar and syntax may also be discovered by him and he either corrects or gets them corrected.'

It must, however, be remembered that fixation of wages by the Committee is confined to working journalists as defined in the 1955 Act. We have already referred to the fact that in the definition of that term under the enactment working journalist is deemed to include a proof-reader. Copyholders as such are not expressly mentioned in Section 2(f) of that Act, but having regard to the functional definition adopted by the Wage Committee they would be entitled to the same salary as proof readers only if they show that their duties are such that they come within the terms of the definition of 'working journalists'. It is clear from the Report of the Wage Committee that it was for this reason that they have not separately provided for the wages of the copyholders as such. In other words the Committee's recommendations would apply to copyholders only if it is made out that the work done by the copyholders satisfies the requirements of the work of 'proof readers' within the meaning of that term given in the schedule to the Committee's Recommendations.

7. It is the employees' case that they come within the terms of 'proof reader' in Group 4 of the Recommendations. This claim is contested by the management on two grounds : (1) their functions are essentially different from those of proof readers for all that the former have to do is to read the manuscripts alone, they are not even qualified for being proof readers as they are not conversant with the symbols employed in the correction of proofs and (2) the deciding factors in the matter of categorisation is the main duty performed by the copyholder, and as reading of the original which should be regarded as their main duty cannot amount to check of the printed matter the essential duty of a proof reader not being such he cannot be regarded as proof reader. The fact that correction of proof from the second to the fourth stage is given to them, it is contended, is only incidental and that it cannot be decisive of the true nature of their role.

8. The Labour Court rejected these contentions of the management on the ground that it had already been decided by this court in Hindu v. Their Workers (Madras Union of Journalists) 1957 2 Mad L J 275, that copyholders in this particular establishment were proof readers. Put in that form, the view of the Labour court might be open to criticism, as indeed it was so criticised by the learned counsel for the appellant, that that decision was concerned only with the question whether a copyholder was a working journalist or not that cannot be extended to a case where the matter to be determined is whether the copyholders are entitled to claim salaries fixed for the proof readers. The decision in 1957 2 Mad L J 275 related to an industrial dispute which arose before the enactment of the Working Journalists (Fixation of Wages) Act, 1958.

9. As we stated the 1955 Act defined the 'Working Journalists' as including proof reader. The proof readers in the Hindu claimed that they were entitled to the same privileges as any other working journalist, i. e., for six hours day of work, The management declined to extend them that benefit on the ground that although the definition of the term 'working journalists' in the Act purported to include them, the object and scope of the enactment did not envisage such persons getting benefits thereunder. This resulted in an industrial dispute which was referred for adjudication to the Industrial Tribunal, Madras. Both the Tribunal and Rajagopala Aiyangar J. in proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution that followed the decision of the Tribunal held that proof readers in the Hindu were entitled to all the benefits under the 1955 Act. as they were working journalists within the express terms of the definition contained in the Act. The learned Judge further observed:-

'It is true that some evidence was adduced in this case to the effect that the 'copy-holders' had less educational attainments and were less competent than 'proof readers' and that they were not required to be acquainted with the symbols usually employed in the printing business in proof correction. But I am unable to hold that because of this reason they formed a different class altogether from proof readers, in the Hindu establishment. It would be seen that they corrected three out of four proofs from the 'author's final' stage along with the regular proof examiners. Whatever might be the position in those cases where their duties were as copy-holders exclusively, viz., reading from the originals for comparison with the print in proof in the case on hand, they were in the Hindu employed substantially as proof examiners.'

The question then is whether the duties performed by the copy-holders would entitle them to be classed as proof readers for the purpose of interpreting the Recommendations of the Wage Committee. The decision of Rajagopala Aiyangar J. in the case mentioned above was before the committee when it considered the matter. In Para. 102 of its Report the Committee has stated:

'In the Madras case already referred to copyholders in the Hindu were held to be proof readers because at certain stages they examined proofs, Copy-holders as such are not expressly mentioned in. the definition in Section 2(f) of the Act and they would be entitled to wages of a working journalist only if they show that they come within the terms of the definitions of working journalists.'

10. Turning to the definition of 'proof reader' as given in the Schedule to the report which we have extracted above we find that his duties are to ensure strict conformity of the printed matter with the editor copy and part of his functions will be to correct slips of spellings mistakes of grammar and syntax, It would be sufficient even if he were to get them corrected. From what we have said above, it will be clear that the work done by the copyholders in the i Hindu are the same as that of proof readers from the second to the fourth stage of proof correction. Those '. stages undoubtedly involve correction of discrepancies, slips of spelling, mistakes, etc. Even in regard ' to first stage it cannot be said that their functions are essentially different from those specified in the definition. The work of correction of the first proof to accord with the original matter, can be done by ; one person, but that will involve comparatively a ' longer time and greater difficulty than when it is done by a dual agency.

The Hindu has therefore introduced this dual system with a view to ensure quicker despatch of business and greater accuracy in the process of comparison. In such a case, one can reasonably say that both the proof reader and the copy-holder together perform a single act, namely, that of correction of proofs, the duties of both being an integrated act. Both of them in a sense can be called proof readers in regard to the first stage of proof correction within. the meaning of the term of the definition. As pointed out by Rajagopala Aiyangar J. the fact that one among them has lesser educational or other qualifications is wholly irrelevant when considering the nature of the work done by him. We are therefore in entire agreement with the view taken by Veeraswami J. that the copy-holders in the Hindu establishment are proof readers who will come under Group IV of the scheme of wages prescribed under the recommendations of the Wage Committee appointed under the Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958. The appeals fail and are dismissed with costs, one set, to be distributed equally.


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