Maternity leave of 180 days is petitioner’s right as per Allahabad HC

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Allahabad High Court granted petitioner’s request and directed District Basic Education Officer, Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh to allow petitioner her full six months maternity leave.

Facts of the case

Petitioner Anshu Rani has been working as Anudeshak since 2013 at Purwa Madhyamik Vidyalaya Gowali Noorpur, District Bijnor. Petitioner applied for maternity leave on 26.09.2018 to the District Basic Education Officer, Bijnor. She was granted 90 days maternity leave from 01.10.2018 to 29.12.2018 with honorarium against the 180 days which she had claimed. No reason was given to her for curtailing her leave period by half.

Frustrated by the apparent inaction the petitioner approached the Allahabad High Court for redressal of her grievance. Avadesh Pratap Singh learned counsel for the petitioner pointed towards the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 which was amended in 2017 (Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017). Advocate Singh contended as per the provisions of the amendment of 2017 maternity leave have been extended from 8 weeks to 26 weeks and the petitioner is entitled to avail the same.

Court ruling

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After hearing the arguments of both sides the Court opined, “the maternity leave is social insurance. The maternity leave is given for maternal and child health and family support.” Allahabad High Court also stated “in consonance with the provisions of Article 42, Parliament has made the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. Since Article 42 specifically speaks of “just and humane conditions of work” and “maternity relief, the validity of an executive or administrative action in denying maternity benefit has to be examined on the anvil of Article 42 which, though not enforceable at law, is nevertheless available for determining the legal efficacy of the action complained of.”

The Court particularly mentioned the visions of economic and social justice that were enshrined in the Preamble of our Constitution, specifically in Article 14 and 15 that guarantees all citizens of our country equality and equal protection of the law without any discrimination as to race, sex, caste, religion and place of birth. The Court ruled that from the perusal of the Section 5 of Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and the policy of the Central Government to grant child care leave which is also followed by the State governments including State of UP, it is evidently clear that “the female employees of the State of U.P. are entitled to the benefits of the maternity leave as contained in the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 as amended by the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.”

Placing their reliance on the case of Dr. Rachna Chaurasiya Vs. State of U.P. and others passed in Civil Misc. Writ Petition No.24627 of 2017 the Court “directed the State Government to grant maternity leave to all female with full payment of 180 days, irrespective of nature of employment, i.e., permanent, temporary/ad hoc or contractual basis. State-respondent was further directed to grant Child Care Leave of 730 days to all female employees.” The Court thus ruled in favour of the petitioner and issued the mandamus granting her prayers of “maternity leave with honorarium with effect from 30.12.2018 to 31.3.2019.”

Impact of the judgment

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The Court in their judgment drew references of numerous other cases where the same issues were discussed. The Supreme Court had ruled “to become a mother is the most natural phenomena in the life of a woman. Whatever is needed to facilitate the birth of the child to a woman who is in service, the employer has to be considerate and sympathetic towards her.” It is correctly held by our courts that “family as a social institution is considered as a backbone of the society.”

Our culture, beliefs, and traditions long since have worshipped the Divine Mother and have always held that women represent the spiritual epitome of that divinity. International Human Rights Law also upheld the dignity of women and her family should be given due protection. It was mentioned in 2017 judgment of Kerala High Court that “if on any reason she could not attend her workplace due to her duties towards the child (compelling circumstances), the employer has to protect her person-hood as “mother”. If not that, it will be an affront to her status and dignity.” Time and time again in matters of social justice our courts have always stood by the side of aggrieved victims and protected their rights from being usurped by corrupt forces of the society.

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