Uttarakhand High Court Strikes Down Rule Preventing Pregnant Women from Government Jobs

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Uttarakhand High Court Strikes Down Rule Preventing Pregnant Women from Government Jobs

| Updated: February 25, 2024 12:03

The Uttarakhand High Court has nullified a rule that deemed pregnant women unfit for government jobs, emphasizing that “motherhood is a ‘noble blessing’ and women cannot be denied employment because of it.”

The court’s ruling was in response to a petition filed by Misha Upadhyay, who was denied a nursing officer position at B D Pandey Hospital in Nainital due to her pregnancy. Despite having an appointment letter issued by the Director General of Medical Health & Family Welfare, the hospital refused her joining, citing a fitness certificate that declared her “temporarily unfit to join” due to her pregnancy.

Justice Pankaj Purohit, presiding over the case, directed the hospital to “immediately ensure that the petitioner, who is 13-weeks pregnant, joins on the post of nursing officer”. The court expressed “deep displeasure” over ‘The Gazette of India (Extraordinary) Rules’ that label women with more than 12 weeks of pregnancy as “temporarily unfit”, stating that “motherhood is one of the greatest and noblest blessings to a woman by nature”.

The court emphasized that a woman “cannot be denied employment for this reason; it cannot even be delayed by this draconian rule as cited by state”. It deemed the action by the state as “highly parochial against women” and stressed that it “cannot be countenanced”, adding that it is “certainly in violation of Article 14, 16 and 21 of the Constitution.”

The bench also highlighted “the contradiction in denying employment based on pregnancy” while also recognizing maternity leave as a fundamental right. The judge questioned, “If a situation is visualized that a woman who joins service on fresh appointment and becomes pregnant after joining would get maternity leave, then why can’t a pregnant woman join her duties on fresh appointment? After joining, she would also be entitled to maternity leave.”

Experts believe that the ruling may set a precedent for other states to follow and ensure that women are not discriminated against, based on their pregnancy status. Doon-based lawyer Somika Adhikari said that the ruling would bring confidence to working women, especially those who at times face difficulties at their workplace during pregnancy.

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