Noting that taking a physical examination test during pregnancy is itself a "sign of courage", the Madras High Court has ordered the Tamil Nadu Uniformed Recruitment Board (TNURB) to select a woman as a Constable despite her having failed the physical efficiency test.
In doing so, Justice S. Vimala emphasized on the need for a change in mindset to eliminate consideration of pregnancy and child birth as an impediment in the discharge of duty.
"The pregnancy and the childbirth should not be considered as the impediment for the discharge of duty. The concessions given to pregnant women shall not be construed as a concession towards personal comfort of the women. The childbirth should be considered as a contribution to continuity of generations, without which the existence of the world is impossible," it observed.
Before issuing the next recruitment notification, the TNURB has also been directed to take into account Constitutional provisions as well as international conventions on maternity rights, "to frame guidelines by providing the best possible measures to support women candidates who are at difficult circumstances on account of pregnancy or maternity or other natural causes".
The court was hearing a petition filed by one R. Devika, who had failed the physical efficiency test for recruitment as a Grade II Police Constable. She had finished the 100 Mts running test in 18.20 seconds, 30 seconds more than the maximum time of 17.50 seconds provided. She had now demanded leniency, submitting that she was eight weeks pregnant at the time of the test.
The Special Government Pleader, on the other hand, had challenged the petition, submitting that allowing such deviations from the norm would open flood gates for other disqualified candidates and would hamper the recruitment process.
The court, however, opined that prescribing same standards for a pregnant lady as for the others who are not similarly placed is unequal treatment in itself. It then asserted that the 0.30 extra seconds taken by the petitioner should be considered negligible, observing,
"…the participation by the petitioner in a running test itself is a sign of courage, as persons similarly placed would be afraid of because of fear of losing the child through abortion. This aspect, though not a factor to be considered in the running test, it is the overall factor to be considered for selection to the post of the Constable.
In the early stages of pregnancy, the Doctors always advice bed rest initially, at least for a period of three months. Taking 0.30 seconds extra should have been considered negligible under the given context as well as under the International Standards prescribed for evaluation."
The authorities were then directed to select Devika for employment as Grade II Police Constable / Grade - II Jail Warden, as on October 31, 2018, with all attendant benefits. If further intensive physical training is required, it shall be postponed till her maternity leave is over, it added.
Read the Order Here