A woman government servant cannot be denied maternity leave benefits for her second delivery on the ground that she had begotten twins during her first delivery, the Madras High Court has ruled.

Justice K. Chandru passed the ruling while allowing a writ petition filed in the Madurai Bench by J. Sharmila, a Block Resources Teacher Educator in Mathematics under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme in Tuticorin district.

The judge disagreed with a Government Order passed on June 27, 1997 stating that maternity leave shall not be granted to married women government servants who already have two surviving children.

He said the real intention behind regulating the grant of maternity leave could only be to confine the benefit up to the second delivery and not on the basis of number of children born during each of those deliveries.

“If it is not construed in this way, it may produce ridiculous results. To cite an example, if during the first delivery a woman government servant delivers a single child and by the second delivery if she delivers twins or triplets, then should she be disqualified?” the judge wondered and said: “The importance has to be seen only from the health point of the woman government servant.”

Tracing the history of legislations regarding maternity benefits since the pre-independence era, the judge said that care for women and maternity relief was recognised by the Constitution itself under Article 42.

The Article read that the State should make a provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. Eleven years after the Constitution was adopted in 1950, Parliament enacted the Maternity Benefit Act in 1961.

The law was enacted following Convention No.103 of the International Labour Organisation which guaranteed maternity protection to women irrespective of their age, nationality, race or creed with effect from September 7, 1955.