Tamil Nadu

Right to Maternity Protection cannot be infringed at all: HC

The Right to Maternity Protection could not be infringed at all, observed the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court while directing the authorities to reinstate an anganwadi worker from Sivaganga district.

The court was hearing two petitions filed in 2014 by K.R. Kanimozhi, who sought the order to terminate her services quashed.

She was appointed as an anganwadi worker in 2011. She was serving at the anganwadi centre in Vadavanpatti near Singampunari. She was married to Thennavan in 2003 and the couple were childless for 11 years.

Through invitro fertilisation (IVF) procedure, she conceived and delivered twins in 2014. When she was pregnant, she had submitted a letter seeking leave and subsequently sought extension of leave.

But, the authorities issued a show-cause notice asking why she was absent beyond six months. Later, she was terminated from service, as per a government order.

Justice S. Srimathy said the government order had not taken into consideration the concept of maternity protection, recognised in 1919 by the International Labour Organisation.

The Maternity Protection Convention of 1919 called for 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, free medical care during and after pregnancy, job guarantees upon return to work and periodic breaks to nurse the infant.

In India, the Bombay Maternity Benefit Bill was introduced in 1929. Thereafter, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, a Central Act was enacted. It provided 12 weeks leave before and after child birth.

Under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, the period was extended to 26 weeks. When the Central Act provided 12 weeks and after amendment 26 weeks protection to the pregnant women, the G.O should be in consonance with the statutory provision.

The court observed that the 12-week period could not be taken into account while calculating the six months period as stated in the G.O.. The court took note of the fact that the petitioner had taken leave for seven months and 11 days leave.

After deduction of the 12-week period, the petitioner had taken leave for four months and 11 days and had not exceeded the six months period stated in the G.O. The termination order ought to be quashed, the judge said.

The court also took note of the fact that the petitioner was not granted any opportunity to be heard. Further, the court said, as per Rule 18 (1) of the Tamil Nadu Government Fundamental Rules, the employee was entitled to take leave exceeding six months on production of the medical certificate.

The court directed the authorities to reinstate her and pay the monetary benefits.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 12:24:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/right-to-maternity-protection-cannot-be-infringed-at-all-hc-madurai-sivaganga/article37727299.ece

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