Bombay HC Directs AAI To Remit Maternity Dues To Employee It Had Denied

Bombay HC Directs AAI To Remit Maternity Dues To Employee It Had Denied

The court quashed a 2014 communication issued by the Airport Authority of India (AAI), Western Region Headquarters, refusing maternity leave benefit to a woman employee for delivery of her third child 12 years ago because she was already having two surviving children.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Saturday, May 11, 2024, 09:12 AM IST
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Bombay HC | PTI

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court observed that to become a mother is a natural phenomenon and an employer has to be considerate and sympathetic towards the woman employee.

The court quashed a 2014 communication issued by the Airport Authority of India (AAI), Western Region Headquarters, refusing maternity leave benefit to a woman employee for delivery of her third child 12 years ago because she was already having two surviving children.

“Women who constitute almost half of the segment of our society have to be honoured and treated with dignity at places where they work to earn their livelihood.,” a bench headed by Justice AS Chandurkar said.

“To become a mother is the most natural phenomenon in the life of a woman. Whatever is needed to facilitate the birth of child to a woman who is in service, the employer has to be considerate and sympathetic towards her and must realise the physical difficulties which a working woman would face in performing her duties at the workplace while carrying a baby in the womb or while rearing up the child after birth,” the court added.

The HC was hearing petitions filed by the Airports Authority of India Workers Union and the woman employee challenging two communications issued by the AAI, Western Region HeadQuarters, in 2015 rejecting the woman’s application for maternity leave benefits for the delivery of a third child as she already had two surviving children.

AAI Denies Grant Of Leave Citing Regulations

AAI claimed that she was not eligible for the grant of maternity leave as per AAI Leave Regulations 2003.

She was married to an AAI employee. After his death, she was employed on compassionate grounds. They had one child. After his death, she remarried. Out of the second wedlock, she gave birth to two children.

The woman contended that she had not availed of maternity leave during the birth of her first child from her first marriage. She had sought maternity leave for the second childbirth. This was rejected by the AAI.

However, the AAI claimed that under the Maternity Leave Regulations, it is clear that since the woman already had two surviving children at the time of giving birth to the third child, therefore, she was not eligible for maternity leave.

The court said that Article 42 of the Constitution of India provides that the State shall make provision for securing just and human conditions of work and for maternity relief. “The right to reproduction and child rearing has been recognized as an important facet of a person’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity under Article 21 [of the Constitution],” it added.

Referring to the AAI’s Maternity Leave Regulations, a woman employee can avail maternity leave twice in her service period. “The objective of this Regulation is to give maternity leave benefits and not to curb the population. The condition of two surviving children is subjected so that the maximum times a female employee can benefit is only twice. This is to ensure that the organisation is not without the services of the employee for more than two times,” it added.

The judges opined that since the woman had not availed the maternity leave benefit when she had her first child, she was eligible for the benefit when she had her third child.

Noting that the regulations should be interpreted liberally, the bench said: “The role of the Court is to understand the purpose of law in society and to help the law achieve its purpose. When social reality changes, the law must change too.”

The court said the objective of the Maternity Leave Benefits Regulation is to offer protection to a woman and its importance has to be seen from the health point of a woman employee.

The court quashed the communications issued by the AAI rejecting the woman maternity leave benefits and directed the authority to grant her the same within eight weeks.

Quashing the AAI’s communication, the HC directed AAI to grant maternity benefits to the woman in respect of the delivery of her child on September 3, 2012 within a period of eight weeks.

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