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Child birth had to be construed during employment as a natural part for every woman: Justice Chandrachud

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In an important decision the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday, held that woman’s statutory right to avail maternity leave cannot be taken away for the reason that she had availed child care leave earlier for her non-biological kids.

The bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna said that maternal leave have to be purposively interpreted in line with the object and intent of the Maternity Benefit Act enacted by Parliament.

“The fact that she was given child care leave cannot be used to disentitle her rights under the CCS Rules. The object and intent of the grant of maternity leave would be defeated,” the Court said.

A matter was been heard by the court today where a government employee, who was a nurse at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh (PGIMER), was denied maternity leave for her biological child for already having availed such leave for two of her other kids. 

The kids for who she had taken leave were from her first marriage. While she was having child from the second marriage , she was denied her maternity rights.

 She filed a plea with  the Central Administrative Tribunal and the Punjab & Haryana High Court but they dismissed her plea for allowance as per maternity leave benefits in the Central Civil Service Rules of 2013.

This led her to move Supreme Court and present her case. 

The counsel for the respondents submitted that the purpose of restricting maternity leave to the two eldest surviving children was to encourage smaller families. 

Justice Chandrachud stated that her plight of having kids from her husband’s previous marriage was not voluntary.

Justice Chandrachud further said that “She got married into such a family. So your argument won’t apply.”

The bench made it clear that grant of maternity leave is intended for encouraging women to join and continue in the workplace. 

“It is a harsh reality that women would leave in the absence of such facilitative measures. Child birth has to be construed during employment as a natural development in the life of every woman,”.

It was held that the appellant is entitled to the grant of maternity leave, and set aside the orders of the High Court and the Tribunal. 

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