Allowing a petition by a woman teacher, Justice K Chandru disagreed with a Government Order passed on June 27, 1997 stating that maternity leave shall not be granted to women government servants who already had two surviving children.
He said the real intention behind regulating the grant of maternity leave could only be to limit 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 asked. "The importance has to be seen only from the health point of the woman government servant," he said.
Various legislations regarding maternity benefits since the pre-independence era showed that care for women and maternity relief was recognised by the Constitution itself under Article 42, he said. As per Article 42, the state should make a provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. Eleven years after the Constitution was adopted, Parliament enacted the Maternity Benefit Act in 1961.
The law was enacted following convention of ILO which guaranteed maternity protection to women irrespective of their age, nationality, race or creed with effect from September 7,1955, the judge said in his recent order on the petition by J Sharmila.