‘Denying child-care leaves to mother of disabled child violates state’s constitutional duty’: Supreme Court

Supreme Court said the participation of women in workforce is not a matter of privilege but a Constitutional requirement.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud.(PTI file)

The Supreme Court on Monday said the equal participation of women in the workforce is a matter of Constitutional duty, observing the importance of child-care leaves for mothers of children with disabilities.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala held that denying child-care leaves (CCL) to mothers of children with disabilities would violate this Constitutional duty to ensure equal women participation in the workforce, Bar and Bench reported.

Observing the issue as “serious”, the bench, hearing a plea, said, “Participation of women in the workforce is not a matter of privilege but a Constitutional requirement and the State as a model employer cannot be oblivious of this.”

The Supreme Court also ordered that the Centre be made party to the case and sought the assistance of additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati in adjudicating it, news agency PTI reported.

The court also directed the state authorities to consider the plea for grant of CCL to the petitioner woman, an assistant professor in the department of geography in Himachal Pradesh.

The court passed the ruling in a case where an assistant professor working in a college at Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh, was denied leave to take care of her son, who had suffered from certain genetic disorders since birth, as she had exhausted all her sanctioned leaves, the Bar and Bench report said.

“We are of the view that the petition raises a serious matter of concern. The petitioner has raised the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. The commissioner has indicated on affidavit that no policy of CCL has been formulated. Participation of women in the workforce is not a matter of privilege but a constitutional requirement and the State as a model employer cannot be oblivious of this,” the Supreme Court bench ruled.

The professor has exhausted the sanctioned leaves due to the treatment of her son and the central civil service rules provided for CCLs.

It directed the state government to revise its policy on CCL to make it consistent with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

It said that besides the chief secretary, the committee will have secretaries of women and child development and the social welfare department of the state and it will have to decide on the issue of CCL by July 31.

“Ultimately, the plea does entrench on areas of policy and areas of State policy must be synchronous with constitutional safeguards. We direct the State of Himachal Pradesh to reconsider CCL to mothers consistent with the RPWD Act for mothers who are bringing up mothers of children with special needs,” the CJI said.

Earlier, the apex court had issued a notice to the Himachal Pradesh government and the director of higher education on the plea on October 29, 2021.

Later, it also sought the response of the commissioner under The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

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