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Indian Case Summary

Express Newspapers (Private) … vs The Union Of India And Others(And … on 8 January, 1958 – Case Summary

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In the case of Express Newspapers (Private) Ltd. vs The Union of India and Others, decided on 8th January 1958, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with a significant challenge to the constitutional validity of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, and the legality of the decision of the Wage Board, constituted under the Act.

Facts of the Case

The petitioners, Express Newspapers (Private) Ltd., and another, challenged the constitutional validity of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. They also questioned the legality of the decision of the Wage Board, constituted under the Act, which was passed to implement the recommendations of the Press Commission and aimed to regulate the conditions of service of working journalists and other persons employed in newspaper establishments.

The Act provided for the payment of gratuity to a working journalist who had been in continuous service for not less than three years, regulated hours of work and leave, and provided for the payment of retrenchment compensation with retrospective effect in certain cases. The petitioners contended that the provisions of the Act violated their fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g), 14, and 32 of the Indian Constitution.

Issues Raised

The primary issues raised were the constitutional validity of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, and the legality of the decision of the Wage Board. The petitioners argued that the Act and the decision of the Wage Board violated their fundamental rights under the Constitution of India.

Court’s Observations and Decision

The Supreme Court held that the constitutional validity of the impugned Act, with the sole exception of section 5(1)(a)(iii) of the Act, which infringed Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, was beyond question. The Court found that section 9(1) of the Act made it incumbent on the Wage Board to consider the capacity of the newspaper industry to pay the rates and scales of wages recommended by it. However, there was no indication that the Wage Board had done so, rendering its decision void and inoperative.

The Court further held that the liberty of the press was an essential part of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The press had the right to free propagation and free circulation without any previous restraint on publication.

The Court also observed that the impugned Act was not discriminatory in character and did not violate Article 14 of the Constitution. Working journalists formed a separate class by themselves and could be classified apart from the rest of the newspaper employees on a perfectly intelligible differentia rationally related to the object which the Act had in view.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, except for section 5(1)(a)(iii). The decision of the Wage Board was declared void and inoperative as it did not consider the capacity of the newspaper industry to pay the recommended wages.