Differentiating between accredited and non-accredited journalists for COVID-19 relief violates Article 14: Plea in Supreme Court
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court demanding parity in the treatment of authorised and non-accredited journalists in terms of compensation and other advantages provided by the federal and state governments. The intervention application (IA) criticises the central government's Journalist Welfare Scheme (JWS), claiming that it excludes "non-accredited journalists." The right to equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution is thereby violated, according to the plea. The request, filed by Dr. Kota Neelima, Director of the Institute of Perception Studies, argued that the Central government has yet to define journalists as frontline workers, despite the fact that a few state governments have done so solely for vaccine prioritisation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of journalists died in the line of duty, according to the petition. According to the IA, there were 253 confirmed and 93 unverified deaths of journalists owing to COVID-19 between April 1, 2020 and May 19, 2021. The Centre had established a specific campaign through the JWS to help the immediate relatives of media journalists who perished as a result of COVID-19. The accreditation data of the journalist must be submitted, according to the scheme's requirements. These details include the card number, validity, and the media organisation (or freelancer) on whose behalf the accreditation was granted. According to point 3(ii) (a) and (b) of the rules, "media staff" does not include those in management or supervisory positions. According to the applicant, she performed a poll of 70 journalists/media persons who died as a result of COVID-19 and discovered that just 4 out of 70 (6%) were accredited to the Press Information Bureau. A total of 26 out of 70 (37%) were accredited by the state government, while 40 out of 70 (57%) were not. “A simple technical difference in compensation and other benefits offered by both the central and state governments to accredited and non-accredited journalists/media persons is a violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution,” it was noted.