BENGALURU: Coming to the rescue of a woman contract employee, whose services were terminated as she had sought maternity leave, which was not available for such employees, the Karnataka High Court has directed the State Government to reinstate her.“I chose motherhood; the State chose to terminate me”, was the plea of the petitioner BS Rajeshwari (35) from RPC Layout in the city.
“The pendulum of her fate swung from the buoyancy of hope to the fatigue of despair as she was terminated on the ground that she opted to become a mother and had sought maternity leave,” Justice M Nagaprasanna observed.
Terming the act of the Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) as appalling and insensitive to the issue, Justice Nagaprasanna directed the government to reinstate Rajeshwari to the post that she held earlier with 50 per cent back wages from the date of cancellation of appointment till the date of reinstatement, and cost of Rs 25,000 payable to her.
Quashing the order cancelling the contract, the court said that the state should pay costs to the petitioner and recover it from the officer who passed the order terminating her service, in accordance with law. The Government Advocate vehemently argued before the court that the contract itself gave a right to to terminate her services at any point in time.
Then the court observed that the action of the DMA cannot be countenanced, as maternity or the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 does not classify or qualify a mother to be a government servant, temporary employee, employee on contract basis or an employee on daily wages. Accordingly, in terms of this Act and the judgement of Apex Court, the petitioner was entitled to maternity leave for six months, the court added.
Sought leave on June 11, terminated on Aug 29, ‘19
Rajeshwari was appointed by the DMA as Project Information Officer/MIS Expert on contract basis for a consolidated pay with effect from November 27, 2009. The contract was being renewed annually. She sought maternity leave through an application dated June 11, 2019. Within 15 days of receipt of application, the DMA issued notice directing her to report to duties forthwith. When she did not report back to duties, an order was passed on August 29, 2019 terminating her from the service on the ground that she had remained absent.