Tamil Nadu

Why can’t breastfeeding be made mandatory: HC

The Madras High Court, a file photo.   | Photo Credit: V. Ganesan

The Madras High Court on Tuesday wanted to know from the Centre as to why the Parliament should not enact a law making it obligatory on the part of women to breastfeed their newborns as it had been done in the United Arab Emirates where it had been made mandatory for mothers to breastfeed their babies until they were two years old.

Justice N. Kirubakaran posed the question while dealing with a case filed by a government doctor who was refused permission to join a PG course on the ground that the maternity leave availed by her would have to be excluded while calculating the minimum service period of two years required to join postgraduate courses as in-service candidates.

Despite granting relief to the petitioner, the judge kept the case pending in order to deal with larger issues revolving around grant of maternity leave and the care required for newborns.

He impleaded the Union Ministry of Women and Child Welfare and also the Ministry of Law and Justice as parties to the case and posed a series of 15 questions to them.

The judge wanted to know why should not the Centre enhance the maternity leave granted to its employees from the current period of 180 days to 270 days as done by Tamil Nadu and prevail upon other States to follow suit within a year.

Newborns’ right

He also asked why should not the Centre invoke the power conferred on it under Article 249 of the Constitution, to legislate even in respect of issues that fall under the purview of the State governments if national interest demands so, and pass a comprehensive law.

Mr. Justice Kirubakaran questioned as to why should not the court declare the right of a newborn to breastfeeding as a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 (right to life).

He also asked why should not it be made mandatory for government servants, who avail maternity leave, to breastfeed their newborns.

The judge asked whether the provisions of Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production Supply and Distribution) Act of 1992 was being implemented properly and whether creche facility was provided in Central as well as State Government offices.

Asking whether it would be possible for the Centre as well as the State governments to bring a new law for provision of breastfeeding rooms in public places, the judge asked why shouldn’t it introduce penal provisions to punish officials who do not grant maternity leave.


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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 6:48:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/why-cant-breastfeeding-be-made-mandatory-hc/article22356772.ece

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