Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Dinesh Mehta, J., allowed a petition which was involved the question of whether a woman, who had given birth to a child prior to joining the Government service, was entitled to maternity leave under Rule 103 of Rajasthan Service Rules, 1951 (RSR).

The petitioner’s child was born on 15-05-2016, and she was given an appointment on the post of Physical Training Instructor (PTI), Grade-III on 04-06-2016 and joined on 06-06-2016. She applied for the maternity leave on 21-06-2016 and didn’t attend office from 26-06-2016 to 10-11-2016. The petitioner’s leave application came to be dealt with by the respondents whereby 90 days’ leave without payment was sanctioned. By another communication dated 17-07-2019, the petitioner was sanctioned a total 142 days’ leave, out of which 90 days were considered as leave without pay as per communication dated 13-08-2018 and 52 days’ leave was treated as extra ordinary leave (EOL), that too without payment. Despite the completion of probation period of two years, the respondents extended petitioner’s probation period by 112 days and confirmed her services w.e.f. 26-09-2018.

The counsel for the petitioner, Mr Bhavit Sharma submitted that the respondents were not justified in deferring petitioner’s confirmation by 112 days while maintaining that respondents’ action in not granting maternity leave to the petitioner was arbitrary and contrary to Rule 103 of the RSR. The counsel for the respondent, Mr Rishi Soni associate to Mr Pankaj Sharma raised a preliminary objection that the petition suffered from delay and laches. He further submitted that maternity leave was permissible only in a case where a child was born after a female joins her duties as a Government servant.

The Court perused the Rule 103 of the RSR and observed that provision had been incorporated with a view to recover from post-delivery issues and obviate the hardship faced by a mother and observe the mandate of Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The Court also perused Rule 103-A of RSR and while comparing both the rules concluded that a female Government servant or a mother can avail maternity leave for the period prescribed irrespective of the date of child birth; whereas a male Government servant can avail paternity leave for a period of 15 days during his wife’s confinement. In other words, the date of childbirth, is significant in case of paternity leave, whereas it is not of much relevance in case of maternity leave.

The Court opined that since on the date of promulgation of these Rules, an employee, who had already given birth, was held entitled to avail maternity leave, it will not only be iniquitous but also discriminatory to exclude an employee, who had given birth to a child a few days ahead of joining the Government service. The Court further explained that Rule 103 does not create or confer right on the basis of date of birth. It simply provided that maternity leave may be granted to a female Government servant from the date of its commencement. Regarding delay and laches the Court felt that it was liable to be rejected as petitioner’s leave application remained unattended/unheeded for about two years and to be sanctioned, but without pay, so it cannot be treated to be belated, by any stretch of argument relying on the judgment of Supreme Court in Port Trust v. Hymanshu International, (1979) 4 SCC 176 where it was held,

            “2…The plea of limitation based on this section is one which the court always looks upon with disfavour and it is unfortunate that a public authority like the Port Trust should, in all morality and justice, take up such a plea to defeat a just claim of the citizen. It is high time that governments and public authorities adopt the practice of not relying upon technical pleas for the purpose of defeating legitimate claims of citizens and do what is fair and just to the citizens. Of course, if a government or a public authority takes up a technical plea, the Court has to decide it and if the plea is well-founded, it has to be upheld by the court, but what we feel is that such a plea should not ordinarily be taken up by a government or a public authority, unless of course the claim is not well-founded and by reason of delay in filing it, the evidence for the purpose of resisting such a claim has become unavailable….”

The court while allowing the petition held that petitioner is entitled to grant of maternity leave in terms of Rule 103 of the RSR, irrespective of the fact that she had given birth to the child prior to her joining Government service and Petitioner’s sanctioned leave of 142 days shall be treated as maternity leave and she shall be entitled to salary for the period of such leave, in accordance with Rule 103 of the RSR and shall be deemed confirmed w.e.f. 05-06-2018 (on completion of two years’ service from the date of her joining).[Neeraj v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine Raj 1864, decided on 07-12-2020]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Full-Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan CJ, Sudhanshu Dhulia and Alok Kumar Verma JJ, held that contractual state employees are also entitled to child care leave, and that its denial would mean the denial of the rights of a child.

The petitioner is a lady Ayurvedic doctor in Uttarakhand’s State Medical and Health Services, appointed on a contractual basis for one year which had been repeatedly renewed since her appointment in 2009. After her maternity leave, she did not rejoin service and instead claimed Child Care Leave (CCL), citing a 2015 Judgement by a division bench of the Uttaranchal High Court which allowed a contractual employee to get CCL for 730 days. Her application was rejected on the grounds of a 2011 Government Order which excluded contractual employees from availing CCL. A division bench referred the matter in the present case to a Full Bench, which had to decide whether CCL of 730 days could be granted to a contractual employee hired for only one year, and whether the High Court, exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226, could issue mandatory guidelines extending this benefit to contractual employees in the absence of any legislation in this regard.

Chief Standing Counsel for the State, Paresh Tripathi, contended that the petitioner was only entitled to a “fixed monthly honorarium,” and could claim CCL as a matter of right since she is not technically a government servant. He also argued that the petitioner is only relying upon Part IV of the Constitution i.e., the Directive Principles of State Policy, which are not enforceable. He rebutted claims of alleged violations of Articles 14 and 16, averring that regular and contractual employees form two different classes and their separation would fall under ‘reasonable classification’, and Article 21.

While acknowledging the recent worldwide emergence of the otherwise neglected concepts of maternity and child care leave, the Court stated that “the leave is not a recognition of the rights of a woman but it is more a recognition of the rights of a child.”

Bench took due cognizance of various Constitutional and statutory provisions, including Article 15(2) and several Articles under Part IV of the Constitution, which were enforced bearing the needs and rights of children in mind. It rejected the State’s argument that DPSPs are not enforceable, instead upholding their importance by citing Supreme Court judgments where the DPSPs were hailed as “fundamentals in the governance of the country.”

The Court opined that since no distinction is made between a regular and a contractual employee with respect to maternity leave, the same principle should be adopted while considering CCL as well. On the first issue, the Court held that a contractual employee employed for a year was also entitled to CCL, but not for 760 days. Rather, they can be granted paid CCL for 31 days on the same terms as “earned leave” given to other employees under the 2011 Government Order. With regard to the second issue, the Court stated that it has merely read the rights of a contractual employee into the 2011 Order, which have duly been subjected to the restrictions imposed on any regular employee under the said Order. [Tanuja Tolia v. State of Uttarakhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 337, decided on 24-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Pradeep Nandrajog, CJ and N.M. Jamdar, J. allowed a writ petition filed by a commissioning mother of a surrogate child and held that she was entitled to maternity leave.

Unable to bear a second child, the petitioner along with her husband, chose the route of surrogacy. The surrogate mother gave birth to a baby girl on 5-11-2012. With reference to the expected date of delivery, the petitioner sought maternity leave to take care of the surrogate child. The same was denied to her on the ground that the Leave Rules and the policy governing the Rules did not permit maternity leave for a surrogate child.

The petitioner challenged the said denial by way of the present petition. She was represented by Nikhilesh Pote, Advocate. While, M.M. Pabale, Additional Government Pleader, appeared for the State.

The High Court was of the opinion that the issue was no longer res Integra. It was noted that in Hema Vijay Menon v. State of Maharashtra2015 SCC OnLine Bom 6127, the Bombay High Court relying on the decision of the Delhi High Court in Rama Pandey v. Union of India, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 10484, had held that even in case of birth by surrogacy, the parents who have lent the ova and the sperm would be entitled to avail leave. The mother being entitled to maternity leave and the father paternity leave.

Notably, in Hema Vijay Menon, the Bombay High Court observed: “A commissioning mother like the petitioner would have the same rights and obligations towards the child as the natural mother. Motherhood never ends on the birth of the child and a commissioning mother like the petitioner cannot be refused paid maternity leave. A woman cannot be discriminated, as far as maternity benefits are concerned, only on the ground that she has obtained the baby through surrogacy. Though the petitioner did not give birth to the child, the child was placed in the secured hands of the petitioner as soon as it was born. A newly born child cannot be left at the mercy of others. Maternity leave to the commissioning mother like the petitioner would be necessary. A newly born child needs the attention of the mother. There is a tremendous amount of learning that takes place in the first year of the baby’s life, the baby learns a lot too. Also, the bond of affection has to be developed. A mother, as already stated hereinabove, would include a commissioning mother or a mother securing a child through surrogacy. Any other interpretation would result in frustrating the object of providing maternity leave to a mother, who has begotten the child.

Following the said decision, the Court held that the petitioner was entitled to maternity leave for the child born through surrogacy. It was ordered that various leaves availed of by the petitioner be converted to maternity leave as prayed for by the petitioner.[Pooja Jignesh Doshi v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1433, decided on 03-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Rajiv Sharma J., decided that the proviso second of the Fundamental Rule 153 of the U.P. Fundamental Rules be struck down as it declines to grant maternity leave to a woman for her third child.

In accordance to the facts of the case, the petitioner was denied for maternity leave on the basis that she had already two living children and she cannot avail the same for her third child, which is in consonance to the second proviso of Fundamental Rule 153 the Financial Hand Book of the U.P. Fundamental Rules.

The High Court on an analysis of the stated Rule along with the Maternity Act, 1961 and Article 42 of the Constitution of India decided that, Fundamental Rule 153 is unconstitutional and there is a dire need to strike it down as neither does the rule supports the spirit of Article 42 nor does it stands in conformity with Section 27 of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. Hence, the petitioner in the present matter was provided with maternity leave for her third child. [Urmla Masih v. State of Uttarakhand,2018 SCC OnLine Utt 717, dated 30-07-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Vide notification dated 29th March, 2018, the Central Government has specified for the purposes of clause (iv) of the Explanation to sub-section (2) of Section 2-A of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 (39 of 1972), that the total period of maternity leave in the case of a female employee shall not exceed twenty-six weeks.

Ministry of Labour and Employment

[No. S-420121/02/2016-SS-II]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: While disposing a writ concerning denial of grant of maternity leave to a mother who has begotten  a child through surrogacy under Rule 38 of the Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 2010 the learned Single Judge Bench of Sanjay K. Agrawal, J. held that the State Government cannot differentiate between a biological mother and a mother who begets a child through surrogacy as right to life under Article 21 of Constitution of India includes the right to motherhood and also the right of every child to full development, thereby setting aside the  impugned order rejecting the application of the petitioner for grant of maternity leave  and  held that the petitioner is entitled for maternity leave as provided under Rule 38 of the 2010 Rules.

In the present case the petitioner surrogate mother was a lecturer working in the government girls higher secondary school, Utai. The petitioner was denied maternity leave by the Education Department on the ground that the concept of providing maternal leave to mother who begets child through surrogacy is not mentioned in the Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 2010. The Court was not satisfied with the said argument and observed by relying on the case of B. Shah v. Presiding officer Labour Court, (1977)4 SCC 384  that interpretation of beneficial piece of legislation which is intended to achieve social justice must be construed beneficially.

The Court also relied on various case laws such as Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association of India, (2008) 3 SCC 1 and the rule of dynamic construction as explained by the eminent author Justice G.P Singh in Principles of Statutory Interpretation, observed that statutes are to be interpreted dynamically according to the change in society and societal conditions, unless and until the contrary intention appears from the statute. [Sadhna Agrawal v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2017 SCC OnLine Chh 19, decided on 3/01/2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Uttaranchal: The Court while hearing a petition relating to the issue of maternity leave not been granted to the petitioner since she was a contractual employee working under the respondent, the Bench comprising of Rajiv Sharma and Alok Singh, JJ., observed that even though the petitioner is appointed on a contractual basis she is entitled to maternity leave with full pay as per Section 5 of the Maternity Benefit Act read in conjunction with Rule 153 of U.P. Fundamental Rules. The petitioner has moved the court as her maternity leave was not sanctioned. However, the case of the respondents is that since, the petitioner was appointed on contractual basis, and working as a Lecturer (Sociology) hence, she was not entitled for maternity leave.

The Court rejecting the contentions of the respondent observed that in a welfare State it is the obligation of the State to ensure the creation and sustaining of the conditions congenial to good health therefore maternity leave, being social insurance benefit, is a key for maternal and child health and family support hence a employer should be considerate and sympathetic toward a working women and grant maternity leave with full pay for 180 days, even if she is working on contractual basis, ad hoc/tenure or temporary basis under the mandate of under Article 21 of the Constitution read with Article 42. The Court further stated that a female government employee is also entitled to Child Care Leave (CCL) for a child below 18 years of age, as per the recommendation of the 6th Central Pay Commission, of 730 days during the entire service. The Court also highlighted the provisions of paternity leave for a male government servant for a period of at least three weeks to enable the father to look after the mother and child. [Dr. Deepa Sharma v. State of Uttarakhand, 2016 SCC OnLine Utt 2015, decided on 15th December, 2016]

High Courts

Kerala High Court: Dealing with an urgent issue as to whether a ‘biological mother’ is entitled to the maternity leave in a case where she has obtained the baby through surrogacy, a bench of D.S. Naidu J. gave a landmark judgment in favour of the genetic/biological mother. The Court held that a mother who has obtained the baby through surrogacy is entitled to all the benefits an employee could have on post-delivery, i.e. the child specific statutory benefits.

In the instant case, the respondents refused to grant maternity leave to the petitioner (an employee in the Government of Kerala undertaking) to take care of the new born on the ground that the Kerala Livestock Development Board Ltd Rules and Regulations, 1993 only provide maternity leave envisaged under ‘normal circumstances’. The learned Counsel for the petitioner Dr. Thushara James contended that “motherhood does not end with the delivery of a baby, but continues, with more vigour, through the process of child rearing, which is an equally difficult task”. The Counsel also referred various international treaty obligations and conventions to which India is signatory and contended that “when the municipal law is silent, the international covenants and treaties can be made applicable”. She further contended that “provision of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 does not maintain any distinction between maternity by way of natural process and by way of ART”. The learned Senior Counsel for the respondent Sumathi Dhandapani contended that “in the face of its own Regulations having statutory force, it is not bound by the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act. Rule 50 of the Staff Rules and Regulations does not provide for leave in the case of surrogacy”.

The Court examined the statutory scheme of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and noted that “there cannot be any discrimination regarding the genetic mother in extending the statutory benefits to the extent they are applicable”. The Court also examined the international treaties and conventions and noted that “welfare of the child shall be the primary consideration”. The Court went through the decision of Madras High Court in Kalaiselvi v. Chennai Port of Trust 2013 SCC OnLine Mad 811, where it was held that a women employee was entitled to avail ‘child care leave’ even in case where she got a child through an arrangement of surrogacy, and held that “though the petitioner has not undergone any pre-natal phase, however, from the day one, after the delivery , the petitioner is required to be treated as the mother with the new born, and thus without discrimination, the petitioner is entitled to all the benefits that accrue to an employee after the delivery”. P. Geetha v. The Kerala Livestock Development Board Ltd., 2015 SCC OnLine Ker 71, decided on 06-01-2015.