Landmark Judgments on Maternity Benefits Act, 1961

The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 safeguards women’s employment during pregnancy and entitles them to several maternity benefits and the most important one is a fully compensated leave of absence from work – to care for their child. In 2017, an Amendment Bill was approved that applies to all enterprises that employ 10 or more people in Factories, Mines, Plantations, Shops & Establishments, and other entities. Establishments with 50 or more workers must additionally provide crèche services, either independently or in conjunction with shared facilities, within a certain distance. The provisions of this act go into effect on April 1, 2017. The contents of this and numerous other acts were combined in the Code on Social Security, 2020, which also repealed the acts in the process. Let’s take a look at landmark cases pertaining to Maternity Benefits in India. 

  1. Pooja Jignesh Doshi Vs. The State of Maharashtra and Ors

             The petitioner was unable to carry a second child and chose surrogacy as a solution. The surrogate mother gave birth to a child, who was later adopted by the petitioner. The surrogate mother, i.e. the petitioner, requested maternity leave prior to the birth of the child but was rejected. The respondent refused the petitioner’s request for maternity leave to care for the surrogate child, claiming that the Leave Rules and the policy controlling the Rules do not allow for maternity leave for a surrogate kid. As a result, the question of whether a surrogate mother is entitled to maternity leave has arisen. Without delving into the merits of the case, the High Court relied on the same court’s decision in Dr. Mrs. Hema Vijay Menon vs. State of Maharashtra. The High Court explored the idea of motherhood and pregnancy in this decision. Maternity is regarded to constitute a period of pregnancy and the period immediately following the birth of a child, according to the High Court in this case. The purpose of maternity leave is to maintain the dignity of motherhood and to offer care for the child’s and mother’s well-being, as well as for the mother-child relationship. Maternity leave is meant to help mothers and their children achieve social justice. To make a distinction between a mother who has a biological kid and one who has a child via surrogacy would be demeaning to the womanhood and motherhood of the woman who desires to nurture a surrogacy child in the same way she would a biological child. The right to life, as defined by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, encompasses the right to motherhood as well as the right to the full development of every child. If the government can grant maternity leave to an adoptive mother, it’s difficult to see why the government won’t provide maternity leave to a mother who has a child through surrogacy. The Court ruled that even if a child is born through surrogacy, the parents who provided the ova and sperm are right to depart. Maternity leave is available to the mother, while paternity leave is available to the father.

2. Anshu Rani vs State Of Uttar Pradesh And Ors. 

            In 2018, petitioner Anshu Rani applied to the District Basic Education Officer in Bijnor for maternity leave. She was awarded 90 days of maternity leave with an honorarium from October 1, 2018, to December 29, 2018, in lieu of the 180 days she had requested. She was not provided a rationale for having her leave term cut in half. Frustrated by the apparent lack of action, the petitioner filed a complaint with the Allahabad High Court. The petitioner’s learned counsel, Avadesh Pratap Singh, referred to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, which was revised in 2017 (Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017). According to the requirements of the 2017 amendment, maternity leave has been increased from 8 weeks to 26 weeks, and the petitioner is allowed to take advantage of it. After hearing the arguments of both sides the Court opined, “Maternity leave is social insurance. The maternity leave is given for maternal and child health and family support.” Allahabad High Court also stated “in consonance with the provisions of Article 42, Parliament has made the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. Since Article 42 specifically speaks of “just and humane conditions of work” and “maternity relief, the validity of an executive or administrative action in denying maternity benefit has to be examined on the anvil of Article 42.”

3. Rasitha C.H. Vs State of Kerala & Anr

             Women employees, regardless of whether their job is contractual or not, are entitled to maternity leave, according to the Kerala High Court. “The maternity benefit is not merely a statutory benefit or a benefit flowing out of an agreement,” Justice A Muhamed Mustaq wrote in allowing a petition filed by Rasitha, 35, who was denied maternity leave by the Calicut University on the grounds that the terms of her contract did not envision the grant of such leave. “The maternity benefit is neither only a statutory benefit nor a benefit growing out of an agreement,” Justice A Muhamed Mustaq wrote. This court has consistently found that it is associated with a woman’s dignity…. it was held that a woman employee cannot be refused maternity benefits only because her employment status is contractual. As a result, despite anything in the contract agreement, the University is obligated to provide such benefits.” In light of these considerations, the Court granted Rasitha’s petition and ordered Calicut University to pay Rasitha’s maternity benefits, which are the same as those paid to other University workers, within two months.

References:-

  1. https://www.whatishumanresource.com/Maternity-Benefit-Act-1961 
  2. https://lexforti.com/legal-news/surrogate-mothers-are-entitled-to-maternity-leave/ 

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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