A WOMAN employee of AIIMS who underwent a tubectomy at the hospital in March 2013 found herself pregnant with her third child, four months after the procedure. Deciding to keep the child, she applied for maternity leave. However, AIIMS denied her leave stating that it is applicable only for those who have less than “two surviving children”. As a result, the woman ended up exhausting all her earned leaves and went on unpaid leave for four months.
Subsequently, she approached the Assistant Labour Commissioner, New Delhi, who held a conciliatory meeting with the two sides but the matter could not be resolved. He filed a ‘Failure of Conciliation Report’ with the secretary of the union government’s labour ministry. On January 29, the ministry referred the matter to the Karakardooma court.
On February 2, Avtar Singh Dogra — presiding officer in Central Government Industrial cum Labour Tribunal in Karkardooma court — reserved the verdict. The court will now decide if the woman can be denied maternity leave (and other related benefits) if she bears a third child, even after she has undergone sterilisation from a reputed institute such as AIIMS. The woman’s lawyer, Rachitta Priyanka Rai, said, “Sensibilities, priorities and moral values of the claimant did not allow her to exercise the option of abortion and she decided to continue with the pregnancy.”
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The woman said, “I’m happy I had a third child, planned or unplanned, I would not want it any other way after I conceived… Despite the hardship that I faced while running from pillar to post (applying for leave) when I was pregnant, my co-workers were very co-operative and supportive.”
Her baby was born on May 4, 2014.
The woman’s lawyer said, “India being a welfare state, the government ought to adopt a compassionate view… Since family planning scheme is a beneficial legislation, it should not be construed in a narrow or pedantic manner.”
Maternity benefits which the woman is seeking include her salary for four months when she couldn’t attend work due to pregnancy, restoration of her earned leaves, grant of family planning allowance from the time of her pregnancy, and all other benefits that would otherwise be accorded to the child had it been her first or second born. The woman added that her immediate seniors in the hospital said they would sanction the leave if she could show them a rule under which they could grant it.
“But I did not know of any such rule,” she said.