DEHRADUN: Four years ago, Urmila Masih was denied maternity leave for her third pregnancy. Last year, the Uttarakhand High Court acknowledged her grievance and struck down the rule prohibiting maternity leave after two pregnancies for women in a government job.
The high court, however, reversed its order on September 17.
“...order passed by honourable court is not based on sound principles of law. The object of Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is quite wide and the same is for the benefits of the employees. There cannot be any discrimination among the employees,” said Masih reacting to the reversal of the verdict.
Shalini Bisht (33) (name changed), an employee of the state health department in Uttarakhand, who is pregnant with her third child, is now worried. Bisht is not alone. It’s now unclear if she can avail the three-month leave.
“I don’t know if my leave will get cancelled. If it is then I don’t know how I am going to manage,” said Bisht.
However, government officials are silent about the number of women availing maternity leave for their third pregnancy. An unofficial estimate puts the figure between 200 and 500.
The court’s order did not nullify the relief provided to Masih last year. The government in its appeal stated that they only wanted the previous judgement cancelled for future.
The division bench in the order dated September 17, 2019, said striking down the rule by the single judge last year was “wholly unjustified”.
The court also refused to acknowledge the previous order’s view that the rule was “inconsistent with the provisions of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, and that it is contrary to the spirit of Article 42 of Constitution of India”.
Last year, in July 2018 the high court had struck down the rule barring maternity leave to women government servants for third pregnancy terming it “unconstitutional”.
Rule taken from UP
The Fundamental Rule 153 the Financial Hand Book of the UP Fundamental Rules says women government servant with two or more living children, are not entitled to maternity leave. After its formation, Uttarakhand had adopted UP’s rulebook