KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Friday held that a woman who is qualified cannot be denied a job because the nature of the employment would require her to work during night hours.
"It is the bounden duty of the governments and government functionaries to take all appropriate steps to see that a woman can carry out the duties assigned to her at all hours, safely and conveniently. If that be so, there would be no reason for denying appointment to a qualified hand only on the ground that she is a woman and because the nature of the employment would require her to work during night hours," held the court.
The court also set aside a notification issued by Kerala Mineral and Metals Ltd (KMML), Kollam, a Kerala government undertaking, for the post of Safety Officer, which stated that only male candidates can apply, and found that it was violative of the provisions of Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution of India.
Justice Anu Sivaraman issued the order on the petition filed by Treasa Josefine of Kollam, an engineering graduate in Safety and Fire Engineering, challenging the notification for the post of safety officer stating that only male candidates need to apply for the post.
The petitioner argued that the notification was discriminatory and that the right of the petitioner for being considered for appointment as Safety Officer was violated due to the said provision.
The Managing Director, Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd, Chavara, Kollam submitted that the post of Safety Officer is a statutory post and the provisions of the Factories Act have to be complied with while issuing notification for filling up the post. As per Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948, women employees shall not be required or permitted to work except between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. The Safety Officer's post is a round-the-clock job and the person engaged as Safety Officer will have to work even during the night time if required.
The company had sought the opinion of the Director of Factories and Boilers, Kerala about the possibility of including women candidates in the recruitment process for selection to the post of Safety Officer, but he replied that women cannot be engaged in factories beyond 7 pm.
The court pointed out that the Factories Act, 1948 was enacted at a time when requiring a woman to work in an establishment of any nature, more so in a factory, during the night time could only be seen as exploitative and violative of her rights. The world has moved forward and women who were relegated to the roles of homemakers during the times when the enactment had been framed have taken up much more demanding roles in society as well as in economic spheres, it said.
"We have reached a stage where the contributions made by women in the spheres of economic development cannot be ignored by any industry. Women are being engaged to work during all hours in several industries including Health Care, Aviation and Information Technology. Women have been engaged in several professions requiring round the clock labour and have proved themselves quite capable of facing the challenges of such engagement," observed the court.
The court directed the KMML to consider the application submitted by the petitioner for appointment to the post of Safety Officer, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948.