IndianCourt Rulesin Favor of Maternity Leave for Female Employee

Bombay High Court overturns Airports Authority of India's 2014 decision denying maternity leave to a female employee with two children. The court rules that employers must provide maternity leave to female employees regardless of the number of children they have.

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IndianCourt Rulesin Favor of Maternity Leave for Female Employee

IndianCourt Rulesin Favor of Maternity Leave for Female Employee

In a landmark judgment, the Bombay High Court has overturned a 2014 decision by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) that denied maternity leave to a female employee, Kanakavali Shyam Sandal, on the grounds that she already had two children. The court ruled that employers must provide maternity leave to female employees, regardless of the number of children they have.

Why this matters: This ruling sets a crucial precedent for protecting the rights ofworking women in India, ensuring they receive the support they need during pregnancy and childbirth. It also highlights the importance of promoting gender equality and addressing the challenges faced by women in the workforce.

The case involved Sandal, an AAI employee who was denied maternity leave benefits after the birth of her third child in 2012. Sandal had previously had two children, one in 1997 and another in 2009, but did not apply for maternity benefits for the second child. The AAI had rejected Sandal's application, citing its rules that limit maternity leave to two instances in an employee's service period.

The Bombay High Court bench, comprising Justices AS Chandurkar and Jitendra Jain, observed that becoming a mother is a natural phenomenon for a woman and that employers must be considerate and sympathetic towards female employees. The court stated, "To become a mother is the most natural phenomenon in the life of a woman. Whatever is needed to facilitate the birth of a child to a woman who is in service, the employer has to be considerate and sympathetic towards her and must realise the physical difficulties which a working woman would face in performing her duties at the workplace while carrying a baby in the womb or while rearing the child after birth."

The court also noted that Article 42 of the Constitution of India enjoins the state to make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. The right to reproduction and child rearing is recognized as an important facet of a person's right to privacy, dignity, and bodily integrity under Article 21.

The court emphasized that the AAI's own maternity leave rules allow a woman employee to get benefits twice in her service period. The judges ruled that Sandal was eligible for maternity leave benefits for her third child since she had not availed the benefit for her first child. They stressed that the regulations should be interpreted liberally to ensure that the purpose of the law is achieved.

Thecourt's rulingsets a significant precedent for employers to provide maternity leave to female employees, regardless of the number of children they have. The decision is seen as an important step towards ensuring just and humane conditions of work for women in India. As the judges aptly stated,"The role of the court is to understand the purpose of law in society and to help the law achieve its purpose. When social reality changes, the law must change too."