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

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1964)1MLJ13
AppellantThe Management of the Hindu, Kasturi and Sons, Ltd.
RespondentThe State of Madras Represented by the Secretary, Labour Department and ors.
Cases ReferredHindu v. M.U.J.
..............has stated,in the madras case already referred to copyholders in the hindu were held to be proofreaders because at certain stages they examined proofs. copyholders 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.9. 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 spelling, mistakes of grammar and syntax. it would be sufficient even if he were to get them corrected. from what we have.....

S. Ramachandra Iyer, C.J.

1. These are appeals under Clause 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 grades 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 by 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 despatch of work. The rough poof 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 copyholder 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 copyholder as well 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 copyholders 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 1956 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 226 of the Constitution before Veeraswami, J. The learned Judge has upheld the decision of the Labour Court and hence these appeals.

4. The only question that arises for determination in these appeals is, whether the respondents fall within the category of proof reader's for whom scales of pay 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 could 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 causal, 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 Recommendations to individual cases. Paragraph 25 of Chapter 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.

But 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 of 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 20th December, 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 the Court dated 19th March, 1958, the proceedings of the Wages Board, (the decision 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 principles 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 News Papers v. The Union of India 1958 S.C.R. 598.

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 (XXIX 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 passed. That order came into force on 1st June, 1958. 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-eminent 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 being roughly divided into four groups ; Wages, scales and grades with respect to each group appropriate to the particular class of newspaper, were specified in the report. Proof readers, for example come under Group IV 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 giving functional definitions has stated with reference to Group IV,

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 for the copyholders as such. In other words the Committee's recommendations would apply to copyholders only if it is made out that the work alone 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 employee's case that they come within the term of ' proof reader' in Group IV 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 manuscript alone, they are not even qualified for being proof readers as they are not conversant with the symbols employed in the correction of proof 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 checking of the printed matter the essential duty of a proof reader not being such he cannot be regarded as a 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. M.U.J. : (1957)IILLJ275Mad 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 copyholders are entitled to claim salaries fixed for the proof readers. The decision in the Hindu and Anr. v. their Workers [Madras Union of Journalists : (1957)IILLJ275Mad related to an industrial dispute which arose before the enactment of the Working Journalists (Fixation of Wages) Act, 1958. As we stated the 1955 Act defined the ' working journalist' 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 work. The management declined to extend them that benefit on the ground that although the definition of the term ' working journalist ' 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 at Madras. Both the Tribunal and Rajagopala. Ayyangar, 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 ' copyholders' 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 final' stage along with the regular Proof Examiners. Whatever might be the position in those cases where their duties were as copyholders exclusively, viz, reading, from the original 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 copyholders would entitle them to be classed as proof readers for the purpose of interpreting the Recommendations of the Wage Committee. The decision of Rajagopala Ayyangar, J, in the case mentioned above was before the Committee when it considered the matter. In paragraph 102 of its Report the Committee has stated,

In the Madras case already referred to copyholders in the Hindu were held to be proofreaders because at certain stages they examined proofs. Copyholders 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.

9. 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 spelling, 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 copyholder in the 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 copyholder 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 Ayyangar, 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 copyholders 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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