Himachal Pradesh HC clarifies Motherhood as Fundamental Right, Upholds Maternity Benefits in Landmark Ruling

LI Network

Published on: December 31, 2023 at 13:15 IST

The Himachal Pradesh High Court has highlighted the paramount importance of safeguarding women’s rights during maternity, stressing the crucial role of motherhood in the continuation of the human race.

Justice Vivek Singh Thakur emphasized the need to ensure pregnant women receive essential support and facilities, stating that their right to conceive, give birth, and care for a child is not only a fundamental right but also a sacred responsibility vital for societal existence.

The case centered around Sharu Gupta, an Assistant Teacher on a contract who faced termination during her pregnancy. The school alleged unsatisfactory performance, but investigations revealed the termination was likely a ploy to evade providing maternity benefits.

The petitioner school contended that Sharu failed to disclose her pregnancy or apply for maternity leave, justifying her termination based on service rules. Sharu, however, argued that the school was aware of her pregnancy, supported by granted leaves and verbal communication about maternity leave.

Upon scrutiny, Justice Thakur dismissed the school’s claim of unawareness about Sharu’s pregnancy, citing granted leaves during the early stages.

The Court emphasized that while the Maternity Act requires written notice before maternity leave, it doesn’t mandate immediate notification of pregnancy but stresses the need for timely communication after delivery.

Invoking constitutional principles and international agreements, the court highlighted the inherent right of women to motherhood, stressing the strict enforcement of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, to protect this fundamental right.

Consequently, the Court dismissed the school’s appeal, upheld previous orders, and granted Sharu an additional compensation of Rs. 15 lakhs, condemning any attempt to obstruct maternity benefits as a serious matter.

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