In what is turning out to be a legal wrangle between the Centre’s Act and a state government’s resolution, this case in Gujarat could well be a milestone to rework rules.
Petitioner Niketa Jain was appointed visiting assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department at Institute of Infrastructure Technology, Research and Management (IITRAM) in June 2019. It was a contractual appointment for a year. In February 2020, she applied for maternity leave. A 90-day-leave was granted but the institute made it cleat that this was to be leave without pay, as deemed by a state government resolution passed on Oct 11, 2017 which stipulates that a contractual employee can avail of paid maternity leave only after putting in a year of service.
What followed next was a series of legal correspondence between Jain and IITRAM. Finally, when the lockdown seemed to have eased, in February 2022, Jain filed a legal suit in the High Court challenging the resolution. Her legal counsel, advocate Bhargav Hasurkar, has argued that the resolution issued by the General Administration Department (Mehkam) is illegal and arbitrary and in direct violation of Section 5 of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
“In fact, in another matter heard by the Allahabad HC, it was ruled that no service regulation can stand in way of a woman claiming protection of her fundamental right to dignity as a mother,” apprised Hasurkar. The matter, heard on Thursday, has been listed for further hearing on February 22.