Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Noting that the nature of work assigned to a woman cannot be carried from home, R Devdas, J., held that, as per Section 5(5) of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 work from home after availing the maternity benefit could be given only in a case where the nature of work assigned to the women is such that it is possible for her to work from home.

Factual Background

The petitioner delivered a baby girl in August 2020 and was on maternity leave till February 2021.

Further, the petitioner contended that during the second wave of COVID-19 and the lockdown announced by the Government of Karnataka, the petitioner was given benefit along with other employees, to work from home during the lockdown period.

Respondent-Organization did not deny the fact that the petitioner’s attendance was regularized. However, when the petitioner did not join duty after the sanctioned leave was exhausted, the impugned communication was issued to the petitioner stating that she was staying away from duty without sanction of leave and overstay without sanction of leave would be treated as unauthorized absence.

It was also informed to the petitioner that disciplinary action could be initiated against her for willful absence from duty after expiry of the leave period sanctioned by the Management.

Petitioner pointed out the benefits that were required to be provided to a woman under maternity, and two official Memoranda, which provided for grant of child care leave to women employees having minor children below the age of 18 years.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court expressed that the petitioner was not able to point out any specific provision of law or rules that would mandate the respondent-organisation to grant childcare leave facility as is available to the Central Government employees, to the employees of STARC.

Bench made reference to Section 5(5) of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, it was evident from the said provision that maternity benefits such as work from after availing the maternity benefit could be given only in cases where the nature of work assigned to the women is such that it is possible for her to work from home.

It was noted that the premises of respondent-Organisation was sensitive and involved with risk due to usage of chemicals and toxic gases and the employees working were involved in research work which was both sensitive as well as complicated. Hence, the said work of the petitioner cannot be carried on from home.

During the proceedings, this Court noted that by the impugned communications issued by the respondent-Organisation, the petitioner warned about unauthorized absence and the consequence of willful disobedience.

The Bench stated that the Court cannot lose sight of the fact that during the period of delivery and post-delivery, there were two serious waves of COVID-19 pandemic, firstly, which commenced during the month of March 2020 and for a prolonged period lockdown was announced by the State Government. The second wave commenced from April 2021. This Court would take judicial notice of the fact that there was a third wave in the month commenced from November-December 2021.

Therefore, if the petitioner was unable to join the duties, the respondent-Organisation was required to have a sympathetic view toward the petitioner.

High Court opined that although the prayer made by the petitioner regarding the grant of child care leave could not be granted, however, liberty was reserved to the petitioner to make fresh representation regarding the unauthorized absence and seek regularization of the same.

In view of the above, the petition was accordingly disposed of. [Prachi Sen v. Ministry of Defence, WP No. 22979 of 2021 (S-RES), decided on 3-3-2022]

Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Beena P.K., Advocate

For the Respondent: H. Jayakara Shetty, CGC For R1 to R4

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Addressing a matter wherein maternity benefits were not being allowed to female officers, Raja Vijayaraghavan V, JJ., expressed that the employer is to take all steps possible to ensure that they are sympathetic to the cause of the female officer so that she can achieve her potential in the workplace and the time spent by her to deliver and raise her child shall not be detrimental to her career or her prospects.

The petitioners who were working as Programmer (IT) were denied the Maternity Benefits, hence they approached this Court.

Analysis, Law and Decision

The Supreme Court decision in Municipal Corpn. of Delhi v. Female Workers, AIR 2000 SC 1274 was cited wherein the female workers (Muster roll) engaged by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi raised a demand for grant of maternity leave which was made available only to regular female workers but was denied to them on the ground that their services have not been regularized.

In the present matter, earlier the maternity benefit was rejected on the ground that female officers appointed on contract for a period of one year or less were not eligible for maternity leave.

It was noted by the Court that, benefit of maternity leave on full pay as per Rule 100, Part I KSR has been granted up to a period of 180 days or till the expiry of the existing contract, irrespective of its tenure.

The Government inserted a caveat that no officer shall be entitled to the above benefits unless she has “actually” worked under the employer for a period of not less than 80 days immediately preceding her expected date of delivery or date of miscarriage.

As held by the Supreme Court, women who constitute almost half of the segment of our society have to be honoured and treated with dignity at places where they work to earn their livelihood. Whatever be the nature of their duties, their avocation and the place where they work, they must be provided with all the facilities to which they are entitled.

Bench expressed that becoming a mother is the most natural phenomenon in the life of a woman. The employer has to be considerate and sympathetic to the cause of the female officer and no action shall be taken to lower the dignity of the women employee in the workplace.

Hence, the impugned order insofar as it denied the maternity benefits will be quashed. [Naziya B. v. State of Kerala, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 2343, decided on 10-5-2022]

Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioners:





For the Respondents:





Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: S. N. Pathak, J., directed the State of Jharkhand to provide maternity benefits to a contractual employee whose demand for honorarium for the duration of maternity leave was not addressed by the authorities concerned. The Bench stated,

“A woman employee cannot be discriminated on the basis of mode of appointment and each and every woman, who is an employee of any establishment, is entitled to get the maternity benefit, whatever be the mode of her appointment…”

The petitioner was appointed on a contractual basis to the post of Protection Officer Institutional Care (POIC), Bokaro and till date she was working. The petitioner contended that she had applied for maternity leave before the District Social Welfare Officer from 03-10-2019 to 30-03-2020 and the same was duly received in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, as well as District Social Welfare Officer.

The grievance of the petitioner was that she was continuously working and getting honorarium for the current month, but she had not been paid the honorarium for the period of her maternity leave, though, she had made representation before the respondents, but no heed was paid. The petitioner submitted that there could not be any distinction between a regular employee, contractual employee and casual employee so far as grant of maternity benefit is concerned as the maternity leave was duly sanctioned to the petitioner and prior information was given to the authorities before leaving the station.

Section 2 of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 deals with the applicability of such case(s) and it applies to all establishments belonging to the Government and to every establishment wherein person(s) are employed. Further, Section 3(O) of the Act defines a “woman”; which means a woman employed whether directly or through any agency, for wages in any establishment. Section 5 of the Act provides for right to payment of maternity benefits, which includes any women.

Thus, the Bench opined that a woman employee cannot be discriminated on the basis of mode of appointment and each and every woman, who is an employee of any establishment, is entitled to get the maternity benefit, whatever be the mode of her appointment, subject to the condition that the contract of employment should subsist.

Accordingly, the petitioner was directed to file a fresh representation before the respondents, claiming maternity leave benefit for the period in question, and the respondent authorities were directed to take an appropriate decision and issue orders for payment of the arrears of honorarium. [Sarita Kumari v. State of Jharkhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Jhar 706, decided on 21-09-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Appearance by:

For the Petitioner: Mr Shadab Bin Haque, Advocate

For the Respondents: Mr Achyut Keshav, GP-I

Kerala High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Bench of A. Muhamed Mustaque, J. disposed of a petition by stating that maternity benefits cannot be denied to a woman employed on contractual basis.

Petitioner was working as an assistant professor in Medical Microbiology on a contract basis. It has been stated that, on expiry of the last contract of the petitioner she was re-engaged for a period of one year and the timeline of her employment shows that she had been engaged from time to time on contract basis for past one decade.

The crux of the issue in the present case is that, on claiming maternity benefits from the University, the petitioner was denied for the same. University submitted that in terms of agreement petitioner was not entitled to such benefits.

“Maternity benefit is not merely a statutory benefit or a benefit flowing out of an agreement.”

Reliance was placed on Rakhi P.V. v. State of Kerala, 2018 SCC OnLine Ker 864, in which it was held that a woman cannot be compelled to choose between motherhood and employment. Further, the Court stated that women employees who are working under contract cannot be denied the maternity benefits.

Therefore, in the present case, the bench held that University is bound to grant such benefits notwithstanding anything contained in the agreement of contract. University was further directed to pay maternity benefits due to the petitioner within a period of 2 months. [Rasitha C.H. v. State of Kerala, 2018 SCC OnLine Ker 7404, decided on 11-12-2018]