The Supreme Court on Thursday finally disposed off a writ petition filed by Advocate-on-Record Anindita Pujari challenging the constitutionality of a circular dated June 28, 2015, issued by the apex court to announce the establishment of a creche facility in the court complex. In addition, a recruitment notice dated June 10, 2015, inviting applications for the post of in-charge and helpers at the child care centre was also sought to be quashed.
The grievance of the petitioner arose from the impugned circular restricting the use of the daycare facility to the children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. It was the contented that such a condition is arbitrary and violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution. The other averments of the petition threw light on the lack of any provision for nutritious meals for the children, capping the maximum number of children that may be admitted in the creche to 10 children and excessive charges of Rs. 5,000 per month imposed for availing the creche facility which were sought to be decreased and adjusted from the Supreme Court Bar Association Fund. With regard to the aforesaid recruitment notice, it was submitted that the same did not require the candidates to possess any specified training in childcare and psychology, only expecting the applicants for the post of creche in-charge to be educated up till Class 10 and the applicants for the post of helper till Class 8, having merely 2-3 years’ experience in handling 4-5 infants and fluency in Hindi with a basic knowledge of English. The other troublesome feature of the impugned notice was the hiring of the in-charge of the daycare facility and the helpers on a contractual or ad hoc basis. Besides, the salary offered for the post of helper was pegged at Rs. 6000, which is lower than the minimum wage of Rs. 9,048 fixed for unskilled workers in Delhi, the wages for semi-skilled and skilled labourers being higher.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, arguing the petition, had prayed that by virtue of Article 45 of the Constitution obligating the State to provide for the welfare of children till the age of 6 years and with a view to uphold the right of female lawyers to professional longevity, the upper age limit of 2 years be relaxed and that day care be offered free of cost like the other facilities of bar rooms and washrooms within the court premises. Subsequently, the apex court by circular dated September 9, 2016, had waived the initial security deposit of Rs. 5,000 and halved the creche fee to Rs. 2,500. Also, by order dated July 3, 2017, the top court entitled children up to and over the age of 3 years to avail OF the daycare facility.
On the last hearing of the matter on August 30, the court had considered the report of the Secretary General, Supreme Court, showing the allotment by the registry of an area in the court’s newly constructed annexe building to shift the creche from its present location in the New Lawyers’ Chambers Block on Bhagwandas Road, Delhi. The court had directed the expeditious execution of the repair works and renovation at the site by the Central Public Works Department and required the registry to determine the conditions for admission to the creche and the fee thereof in consultation with Indira Jaising and senior members of the Supreme Court Bar Association. Further, the Secretary General, Supreme Court, was required to submit a progress report in terms of the above directions in three months.
Earlier, a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, after perusal of the report of the Secretary General, made a direction for the creche facility to be made fully operational with all necessary amenities from March 1, 2018, and disposed off the writ petition.