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Maternity Benefit Act A Beneficial Legislation, Organisation Expected To Be Empathetic To Pregnant Woman Rather Than Making Bald Allegations Against Her: Delhi HC

Nupur Thapliyal
11 Dec 2021 3:54 AM GMT
Maternity Benefit Act A Beneficial Legislation, Organisation Expected To Be Empathetic To Pregnant Woman Rather Than Making Bald Allegations Against Her: Delhi HC
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The Delhi High Court has held that the Maternity Benefit Act is a beneficial legislation for the purpose of safeguarding the rights of pregnant women and that an organisation is expected to be empathetic to the cause of a pregnant woman rather than making bald allegations against her. "The Act is a beneficial legislation for the purpose of safeguarding the rights of pregnant women. The...

The Delhi High Court has held that the Maternity Benefit Act is a beneficial legislation for the purpose of safeguarding the rights of pregnant women and that an organisation is expected to be empathetic to the cause of a pregnant woman rather than making bald allegations against her.

"The Act is a beneficial legislation for the purpose of safeguarding the rights of pregnant women. The provisions of the Act have to be given effect to, in letter and spirit. Technical issues would not come in the way of the Court or the authority concerned, in recognizing the said benefits," Justice Pratibha M Singh observed.

The Court was dealing with a plea filed by Asia Pacific Institute of Management challenging the order dated 13th August, 2020 passed by the Labour Commissioner under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

The proceedings emerged after one Nidhi Maheshwari joined the Petitioner institute as an Assistant Professor in the year 2011 and was promoted to the post of Associate Professor in 2015. On 17th October, 2018, the Petitioner discontinued her leading to her filing a complaint before the Labour Commissioner under the Act.

It was thus the case of the petitioner that it was not aware that the lady was pregnant and that an intimation was given to the Petitioner institution only after the relieving letter was served on her on 17th October, 2018.

It was therefore submitted that the awarding of maternity benefit for six months under the Act to the woman was untenable. It was argued that at the time when the relieving letter was served upon woman, the Petitioner had no knowledge that she was seven months' pregnant.

On the other hand, it was submitted on behalf of the woman that an email was sent to the Petitioner on 17th October, 2018, prior to the time the relieving letter was received by her.

It was submitted that in the said email, she had informed the Petitioner institution of being at an advanced stage of pregnancy, and apprised them that she would be required to go on maternity leave from the first week of November, 2018.

Additional Standing Counsel Satyakam appearing for the Labour Commissioner placed on record the copy of the email received from the Labour Commissioner's office. He submitted that an email was sent on 17th October, 2018 by the woman to the Petitioner institution and it is only thereafter, that the relieving letter was served. According to him, the said email completely falsified the case of the petitioner.

"The impugned order clearly records that Respondent No.2 gave birth to a child on 19th December, 2018. Thus, it is highly suspect as to how Respondent No.2, having such high qualifications, is sought to be terminated by a completely unreasoned and abrupt. The fact that she was seven months' pregnant on the date when the relieving letter was served upon her, clearly shows that the intention behind the said letter was to somehow deprive Respondent No.2 of her maternity benefits," the Court said.

It added:

"An organisation is expected to be empathetic to the cause of a pregnant woman rather than making bald allegations against her, especially when the Petitioner came to know that Respondent No.2 was at an advanced stage of pregnancy."

The Court said that it was unfathomable as to how when the woman was working with the Petitioner institute which was an academic establishment, it could claim to be completely ignorant of the fact of the pregnancy.

"Thus, a conjoint reading of all these provisions leaves no manner of doubt whatsoever that Respondent No.2, who was pregnant on the date she was served with the relieving letter, could not have been terminated and discontinuation of her services was illegal, unlawful as well contrary to provisions of this Act," it said.

Noting that the awarded amount was yet to be paid since the year 2018 and three years had already passed in pursuing this matter, the Court directed that the in addition to the awarded amount, litigation expenses of Rs.50,000 be paid to the woman.

It added that the entire awarded amount along with the litigation expenses shall be paid on or before 30th December, 2021.

In view of the aforesaid, the plea was dismissed.

Title: ASIA PACIFIC INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT v. OFFICE OF THE JOINT LABOUR COMMISSIONER AND ANOTHER

Click Here To Read Order


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