The Kerala High Court on Tuesday held that contract employees in government controlled establishments are entitled to maternity leave in the same manner as governments servants. Justice Anu Sivaraman gave this decision while hearing the plea of women engaged on contract service by the government. The petitioners in the present matter were women working on contract basis in the Additional Skill Acquisition Programme under the Higher Education Department of the Government of Kerala, and some were working under the Inclusive Education for Disabled Secondary Stage under the Inclusive Education for Disabled Secondary Stage under the Rashtriya Madhyamic Siksha Abhiyan of the MHRD.
The petitioners contended that they were given a maternity leave for only 135 days and were asked to re-join duty after the expiry of leave period. They claimed that they were entitled to 180 days of leave provided under the Kerala Service Rules. They further added that they were entitled to 26 weeks of leave as per s the provisions of Maternity Benefit Act 1963. Government opposed the above contentions by stating that the service conditions of employees of contact employees permitted the grant of 135 days of maternity leave only. This was further limited to 90 days as per order issued on 11th April, 2017.
While rejecting the contention of government, the court said that limiting maternity leave to only 90 days amounted to discrimination against woman employees only for the reason that they are engaged in projects in contractual capacities.
Justice Anu Sivaraman while giving the judgment observed that “Inalienable obligations of maternity should not and cannot be a reason to deny equal opportunities to woman employees. This precisely would be the result of limiting maternity leave to employees, irrespective of the nature of their employment.”
The government had also raised a plea of hardship on the ground that grant of 180 days of leave to contract employees engaged for one year period would be detrimental to the projects. However, the court while considering this contention said that such an issue did not arise in the case, as the petitioners’ were continuing for long on the basis of the successive extension of contract. Hence this contention was rejected.
For reaching at this judgment the court also relied on the previous precedents given by the very same court in Mini v Life Insurance Corporation of India where it was held that a mother can’t be compelled to choose between her motherhood & employment and that the state can’t discriminate against her ‘Right To Dignity’ as mother.