Maternity benefits integral part of woman's identity and dignity: Delhi HC
The work environment should be conducive enough for a woman to facilitate unimpaired decision-making regarding personal and professional life, the court said.
NEW DELHI: Maternity benefits are a fundamental and integral part of the identity and dignity of a woman who chooses to bear a child, the Delhi High Court has said while holding that a contractual female employee is also entitled to relief under the Maternity Benefit Act.
Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, in an order released Thursday, said the work environment should be conducive enough to facilitate unimpaired decisions and ensure that a woman who chooses to have both career and motherhood is not forced to make an “either-or” decision.
The Constitution, the judge said, gives a woman the liberty to carry a child as well as the choice to not carry one, and the importance of maternity leave and benefits is recognized worldwide to secure the health and best interest of the mother and the child.
“Maternity benefits do not merely arise out of the statutory right or contractual relationship between an employer and employee but are a fundamental and integral part of the identity and dignity of a woman who chooses to start a family and bear a child,” the court stated in its order.
“To make sure that the women of the society are made to feel safe and secure, she should be able to make decisions in her personal and professional life, without having an implication or bearing of one on the other. The work environment should be conducive enough for a woman to facilitate unimpaired decision-making regarding personal and professional life and to ensure that a woman who chooses to have both, a career and motherhood, is not forced to make an ‘either-or’ decision,” the HC said.
The petitioner, a contractual employee of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA), moved the high court after her request for maternity benefits was declined. The respondent DSLSA argued that the petitioner was not entitled to claim maternity benefits since she was only an impaneled advocate and not an employee to whom such benefits accrue.
In its order, the court observed that the petitioner was seeking “nothing extraordinary or outrageous”, and to stand in the way of the exercise of maternity rights by a woman, without procedure or intervention of law, was in violation of the fundamental rights granted by the Constitution and the basic tenets of social justice.