Can’t Deny Women Staff Maternity Leave, Benefits On Technical Grounds: Madras HC

Madras high court on maternity leave
A woman cannot be forced to swing between motherhood and employment, as maternity benefit relates to the dignity of a woman, said the Madras High Court while upholding an order of a single judge regarding maternity leave to an employee of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC).

In a judgment passed on January 12, a bench of Justices S Vaidyanathan and Mohammed Shaffiq upheld a single bench order that had directed TNSTC to treat the respondent woman’s absence from work as maternity leave and grant her all related benefits under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 and the Tamil Nadu Maternity Benefits Rules, 1967. The Court also referred to Hindu mythology while granting relief.

Madras high court on maternity leave

The matter was related to providing maternity leave to Rajeswari who had joined as an assistant engineer (AE) at Erode branch of TNSTC in 2013. She was sanctioned maternity leave but on the loss of pay citing the reason for not completing the mandatory number of days in work to become a permanent employee.

However, a single judge, on her petition, found her eligible for claiming maternity leave with full benefits and directed the employer to treat the leave period as a duty period and extend all service and monetary benefits.

The transport body argued that while the 1961 Act was welfare legislation, that did not mean that its benefits can be extended to even those who do not meet the eligibility criteria. The division bench, however, said that TNSTC’s argument can not be accepted by the court.

It went on to say that a child’s birth also means the “re-birth” of the mother and that the pain a woman goes through during labour is impossible for a man to bear.

Therefore, women should be granted all benefits that will make their lives easier postpartum, the Court said.

The Court warned that if TNSTC fails to comply with the court’s direction, it will be liable to pay a fine of ₹50,000, reports Bar and Bench.

Suggested Reading: Central Government To Grant 60-Day Special Maternity Leave In Case Of Death Of A Child