The Himachal Pradesh High Court observed that the right to become a mother is a fundamental/human right of a woman and the provisions of Maternity Benefits Act must be strictly enforced wherever applicable.

The Court observed thus in a writ petition filed against the order passed by the Labour Commissioner-cum-Chief Inspector of Factories-cum-Appellate Authority under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

A Single Bench of Justice Vivek Singh Thakur held, “Motherhood is an important and essential duty to be performed by a woman for existence of the human race on this earth. To conceive, to give birth and take care of a child is not only the fundamental right of the woman but also a pious role to be performed by her for existence of Society. Keeping in view arduous nature of this duty, she must be provided facilities to which she is entitled.”

Senior Advocate K.D. Sood represented the petitioners while Advocate Uma Manta, Advocate General Anup Rattan, and Additional Advocate General Rajesh Mandhotra represented the respondents.

In this case, the Secretary, Managing Committee of Loreto Convent Tara Hall School approached the Court as the order passed by the Labour Inspector Circle-1 Shimla in a case was affirmed with modification by granting additional payment of three months salary to the claimant/respondent as per provisions contained in Section 17(2)(a)(b) of the Maternity Benefit Act, over and above the relief granted by the Authorised Inspector directing the school to pay Rs. 2,45,592/- as maternity benefit and salary for the month of September 2019 to the complainant and also to take joining of the complainant on the same post as Assistant Teacher which she was holding before her proceeding on maternity leave.

The High Court in view of the above facts noted, “Article 42 of the Constitution of India categorically directs that State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. India is signatory to various international covenants and treaties including The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on 10th December, 1948 declaring that human right are supreme and ought to be preserved at all costs.”

The Court added that the right to become a mother is also one of the most important human rights and such right must be protected at all costs, and therefore, the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act must be enforced strictly wherever applicable.

“Relationship of an employer and an employee requires mutual trust between them, particularly in an education institution, where congenial atmosphere for teaching and learning is required. Therefore, in case petitioners do not intend to accept joining of the respondent, as directed by the Authorities below, then they shall, in addition to the maternity benefits already granted by the Authorities below, shall pay compensation to the respondent amounting to Rs.15.00 lakhs (fifteen lakhs) in lieu of her reinstatement because any intent to thwart the grant of maternity benefits should be dealt with seriously in order to ensure implementation of the Act in letter and spirit”, further said the Court.

Accordingly, the High Court dismissed the petition and refused to interfere in the impugned orders passed by the concerned authorities.

Cause Title- The Secretary, Managing Committee of Loreto Convent Tara Hall School v. Sharu Gupta and Others (Neutral Citation: 2023:HHC:14597)

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