The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking direction to all the State governments to frame rules for menstrual pain leaves to the female students and working-class women at their respective workplaces and compliance of section 14 of the Maternity Benefit Act 1961. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud posted the matter for hearing on February 24 after advocate Shailendra Mani Tripathi mentioned the matter and sought an early hearing of the case.
According to the petition, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, makes provisions for almost all the problems faced by women related to maternity in their true spirit. The provisions of the Act have made it mandatory for employers to grant paid leave to its women employees for a certain number of days during her pregnancy, in case of miscarriage, for tubectomy operation, and also in case of illness as well as medical complications arising out of these stages of maternity. Ironically, the most disappointing aspect in the direction of respecting the rights of working women, is that in spite of a provision under section 14 of the Maternity Benefit Act that there will be an inspector for a particular area to monitor the implementation of such great provisions, no government in India has created the post of inspectors, forget about the appointment of such inspectors, the plea said.
These provisions of law under the Maternity Benefit Act are one of the greatest steps taken by Parliament or by the people of the country to recognise and respect the motherhood and maternity of working women, the petition pointed out. “Definitely even today also in several organizations including government organizations these provisions are not being implemented in their true spirit and with the same legislative intent with which it was enacted but at the same time one of the biggest aspects of this whole issue or one of the very basic problems related to maternity which are faced by every woman has been completely ignored by the legislature in this very good law and also by the executive while making rules, specifically the leave rules,” the petition said.
According to the petition, Central Civil Services (CCS) leave rules have made provisions like child care leave (CCL) for women for a period of 730 days during their entire service period to take care of their first two children till they attain the age of 18 years. This rule has also given 15 days of paternity leave to male employees to take care of their child, which is another great step for a welfare state in recognizing the rights and problems of working women. “In spite of making all the above-mentioned provisions in the law to take care of women in difficult stages of her maternity, the very first stage of the maternity, the menstrual period has been knowingly or unknowingly ignored by the society, the legislature and other stakeholders in the society except few organizations and state governments, which raises a question on the intent of the whole society with regard to recognizing and respecting women rights, especially during their difficult times related to different stages of maternity, the monthly leave to working women during their menstrual period, hence the present Writ Petition,” the petition said.
According to the petition, Bihar is the only state in India that has been providing two days of special menstrual pain leave to women since 1992 through its Human Resources. In 1912, the Government Girls School in Tripunithura, located in the erstwhile princely state of Cochin (present Ernakulam district), had allowed students to take ‘period leave’ during the time of their annual examination and permitted them to write it later, the petition highlighted. Hence, the petitioner has sought to direct all the states to frame rules for menstrual pain leaves for female students and working-class women at their respective workplaces. The petition also sought to issue directions to all the states and the government of India for compliance of section 14 of the Maternity Benefit Act.