Case Title: State of Himachal Pradesh vs Sita Devi
A division bench of Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Virender Singh of Himachal Pradesh High Court held that maternity leave is a fundamental human right and denial of such violates Articles 29 and 39D of Constitution of India.
“Maternity leave is a fundamental human right of the respondent, which could not have been denied. Therefore, clearly the action of the petitioner is violative of Articles 29 and 39D of the Constitution of India”.
Justice observed that the maternity leave is intended to achieve the social justice to women, motherhood, and childhood.
“Maternity leave is intended to achieve the social justice to women, motherhood and childhood, both require special attention”.
The appeal was filed by the state government against an order of Administrative Tribunal of Himachal Pradesh in which the tribunal granted the benefit of maternity leave to the woman who was engaged as a daily wage’s worker.
The woman was carrying a child in the year 1996, after availing three months maternity leave, after availing maternity leave for 3 months, the woman assumed duties and it is only on account of pregnancy and subsequent delivery that the woman could only put in 156 days as against the minimum requirement of 240 days in a year.
In the view of the provisions mentioned in the Industrial Dispute Act, the hon’ble tribunal held that the period of the woman for maternity leave would be deemed to be continuous service.
While opposing the said order, state stated that there was no provision in the department for granting maternity leave to female daily wages worker in the year 1996.
Justice held that “It was after years of deliberations at National and International level, the right of a woman employee for maternity leave has now been established as supreme by the enactment of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. India otherwise was required to make labour laws in conformity with the recommendations made by the International Labour Organization (ILO) read with Article 42 of the Constitution of India. According to Article 42 of the Constitution of India, “the State is required to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief”.
While dismissing the appeal the bench held that the woman was a daily wage employee at the time of advance pregnancy and could not have been compelled to undertake hard labour as it would have been detrimental to her health and safety as well as the child’s health, safety and growth.