Delhi High Court has issued notice in a plea seeking relaxation in attendance norms for women studying pursuing higher education on account of their pregnancy, child-birth or post natal care.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Hari Shankar has issued notices, among others, to the Central Government and University Grants Commission.
Moved by Kush Kalra, the petition seeks to secure and protect the rights of women who drop out of educational institutions due to the failure to meet the minimum attendance requirement on account of pregnancy.
The Petitioner has cited the judgment of the Delhi High Court in Vandana Kancari v. University of Delhi in support of his plea.
In that case, the court had directed the Bar Council of India to make rules for female students claiming relaxation on the grounds of maternity relief so that they are not deprived of appearing for their LLB examination.
It is highlighted by the Petitioner that unlike CBSE, which provides rules for condonation of shortage of attendance in schools, UGC has no such rule or regulation for institutes of higher education.
As per the National Family Health Survey Report, according to the Petitioner, 47.4% of women between the ages of 20-24 years get married at the age of 18.
Therefore, the Petitioner claims that denying them condonation of shortage of attendance, on account of reasons such as pregnancy, child-birth or post natal care, violates the fundamental rights of such women.
Further, the judgment of the Supreme Court in Puttaswamy v. Union of India is cited, wherein it was held that women have a constitutional right under Article 21 to make their own reproductive choices as part of their personal liberty.
Therefore, as per the Petitioner, if a woman is detained for shortage of attendance, on account on her being pregnant, it would amount to violation of her fundamental right under Article 21.
It is also highlighted that since many women are not allowed to take decisions pertaining to their marriage, their right to pursue higher education must be protected by incorporating their unique circumstances.
'The state must ensure that in exercising their reproductive rights or bearing a child owing to decisions beyond their control are not detrimental to their educational aspirations.'
The petition also seeks the protection under the Maternity Benefit Act to be extended to women studying in higher education institutions. It argues that the state, under a welfare legislation, cannot discriminate between working women and studying women.