The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to respond to a petition challenging the layoffs and salary cuts by some media organisations due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, Live Law reported. The court observed that the matter needed urgent hearing.

The court issued the notice to the Centre on a petition filed by the National Alliance of Journalists, the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists. The petitioners accused media houses of “arbitrary action” against employees, despite the Centre’s advisory for employers to not sack workers.

The petitioners listed at least nine instances where media houses have imposed salary cuts, sent staff on unpaid leave, or terminated their employees, according to Bar and Bench. “In the backdrop of the lockdown, the media industry has effected job losses and wages cuts with impunity,” the plea said.

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The petitioners appealed to the top court to direct media houses to suspend all termination notices, wage reductions, and directions to go on leave without pay, which were issued after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown.

The top court bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana, said that the concerns raised by the petitioners were serious and needed hearing. “Some serious issues have been raised, it requires hearing,” the bench said. “The question is, if businesses do not start, how long will people sustain.”

Media revenues have been hit by decreasing advertisements during the lockdown. The print media has taken a major hit as the lockdown rules have led to a disruption in the circulation of newspapers in many areas.

The nationwide lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19 is in place till at least May 3. At a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, the chief ministers of several states suggested that the lockdown be extended for the second time.

India has reported 28,380 coronavirus cases and 886 deaths so far, according to the health ministry’s Monday evening update.