KOCHI: "Only a woman knows how acutely difficult it is to balance motherhood and her career," observed the Kerala High Court while criticising the action of the Kerala government in terminating the service of a woman counsellor in Kollam who had gone on maternity leave.
Justice Devan Ramachandran said that life as a new mother is like being on a roller-coaster and being a working mother is tougher. "The minutiae of motherhood can never be properly contemplated and it involves navigation through myriad daily issues, which ultimately determine the health and future of the child. The mother's constant proximity to the child is scientifically proven to be absolutely unexpendable and this is why the provisions for maternity leave are now internationally accepted," observed the court.
The court issued the order while allowing the petition filed by Vandana Sreemedha J of Kollam. She approached the court after her request for maternity leave was turned down and, exacerbating her agony, she was terminated from service, accused of having been on unauthorised absence. The petitioner submitted that she has been striving very hard to make her livelihood and that, being without other option, was forced to work on contract as a Counsellor in the Office of the District Child Protection Officer, awaiting better opportunities in life. She was serving as Counsellor on contract for several years after extending her contract from time to time.
The court said that the Director, Women and Child Development Department, Thiruvananthapuram, even threatened action against the District Child Protection Officer for having selected and appointed the petitioner "without proper care", thus insinuating that he ought not to have offered employment to her solely because she had recently delivered, thus being in need for leave to care her child.
"Without the requirement for any elaboration, this attitude is not one which this court can countenance in this century, when women essay several roles, take on variegated responsibilities and require to be adept multitaskers, to survive and find wings to achieve their legitimate ambitions," the high court said.
The court set aside the order terminating her from service and directed the state government to reinstate her forthwith.