The Delhi High Court has observed that while maternity benefit is a fundamental and integral part of the identity and dignity of a woman who chooses to give birth to a child, a contractual female employee is also entitled to relief under the Maternity Benefit Act.
Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, in an order issued on Thursday, said that the work environment should be conducive enough to take decisions without any hindrance and ensure that a woman who chooses to pursue both career and motherhood is given “either or” should not be forced to decide.
The Constitution grants a woman the freedom to give birth to a child as well as not to give birth to a child, and the importance of maternity leave and benefits to secure the health and best interests of the mother and child has been recognized worldwide, the judge said. has been recognized in ,
The court observed, “Maternity benefit does not merely arise out of a statutory right or contractual relationship between employer and employee, but is a fundamental and integral part of the identity and dignity of a woman who chooses to start a family and give birth to a child.” ” its order.
“To ensure that the women of the society are made to feel safe, they should be able to take decisions in their personal and professional lives without being influenced by each other. The work environment should be conducive. sufficient to facilitate seamless decision-making with regard to life and to ensure that a woman who chooses to pursue both career and motherhood is not forced to take an ‘either-or’ decision. Said this.
The petitioner, a contractual employee of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA), moved the High Court after her request for maternity benefits was rejected.
The respondent DSLSA contended that the petitioner was not entitled to claim maternity benefit as she was only an empaneled advocate and not an employee entitled to such benefits.
In its order, the court noted that the petitioner was not seeking “anything extraordinary or outrageous”, and that standing in the way of the exercise of the right of motherhood by a woman, without any process or interference of law, was violative of the fundamental rights conferred by the . Basic principles of constitution and social justice.
The court said that if a woman is forced to choose between her family life and career advancement even in “this day and age”, the society would be failing her by not providing her the means to move forward.
The court said, “Freedom to carry the child is a fundamental right which the Constitution of the country gives to its citizens under Article 21. Moreover, the option not to carry the child is an extension of this fundamental right.”
In the present case, the court said, the respondent should have granted benefits and relief under the Maternity Benefit Act to the petitioner, holding that the nature of employment cannot decide whether a woman employee would be entitled to maternity benefit under the law or No.
“Nature certainly does not discriminate on the basis of the nature of a woman’s employment when she blesses her with a child. The miracle of child birth and the process a woman goes through at such a time cannot be compared to any external event. should not be hindered from.” “Affect the health and welfare of the mother and cause her any degree of distress,” the court said.
“The social welfare legislation of the Maternity Benefit Act certainly does not discriminate on the basis of the nature of employment of the beneficiaries. It is also certain that the mere formulation of the welfare legislation is not sufficient. A duty is cast on the State and all those who are subject to, to uphold the integrity, object and provisions of the law in letter and spirit,” it said.
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