A Himachal Pradesh High Court Bench of Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Virender Singh has stressed that every woman is entitled to maternity leave, regardless of her employment status.

In that context, the Court noted that "The object of maternity leave is to protect the dignity of motherhood by providing full and healthy maintenance to the woman and her child, maternity leave is intended to achieve the social justice to women, motherhood and childhood, both require special attention."

The Court relied on the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi vs. Female Workers (Muster Roll) & Anr. to hold that the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 entitled maternity leave even to women engaged on casual basis or on muster roll basis daily wage and not only those in regular employment.

Senior Additional AG IN Mehta, Senior Additional AG YW Chauhan, Additional AG Ramakant Sharma, Additional AG Sharmla Patial, and Law Officer Rajat Chauhan appeared for the petitioner.

In this case, the Court was hearing the State's plea against an order passed by the Himachal Pradesh Administrative Tribunal, whereby the respondent had been granted the benefit of deemed maternity leave and the consequential benefit of conferment of work charge status on completion of 8 years of service.

In 1996, the respondent took three months of maternity leave after giving birth, resulting in her working only 156 days instead of the required 240 days in a year. The Tribunal ruled that the respondent's maternity leave should be counted as continuous service under Section 25(B)(1) of the Industrial Dispute Act. The State filed a petition, arguing that since there is no provision for granting maternity leave to female daily wage workers in the department, the Tribunal was not authorized to order the petitioners to provide such relief.

The High Court relied on a catena of international laws, national laws and judicial precedents.

Notably, it observed that "It is otherwise no longer res integra that a female employee respective of the capacity in which she is working is entitled to maternity leave at par with her female counter parts, who otherwise are regular employees."

Noting that "The respondent in the instant case was a daily wage woman employee at the time of advance pregnancy could not have been compelled to undertake hard labour, as it would have been detrimental to not only to her health and safety but also to the child health, safety and growth. The 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.", the Court held that it found no merit in the appeal, and accordingly dismissed the same.

Cause Title: State of H.P. & Ors. vs Sita Devi

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