Maternity Benefit Act Is Beneficial Legislation; Organizations Should Be Empathetic To Pregnant Women Rather Than Making False Charges Against Her: Delhi High Court

The Maternity Benefit Act is helpful law for the purpose of defending the rights of pregnant women, according to the Delhi High Court, and an organisation is required to be sympathetic to a pregnant woman’s cause rather than making blatant claims against her.

“The Act is a helpful piece of law that protects the rights of pregnant women. The Act’s requirements must be carried out in both letter and spirit. Technical issues would not prevent the Court or the relevant authority from acknowledging the benefits “Pratibha M Singh, the Chief Justice, remarked.

The Court was hearing a petition brought by Asia Pacific Institute of Management, which was challenging the Labour Commissioner’s order dated August 13, 2020, issued under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

Nidhi Maheshwari, who started as an Assistant Professor at the Petitioner institute in 2011 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2015, sparked the legal action. The Petitioner’s employment was terminated on October 17, 2018, prompting her to file a complaint with the Labour Commissioner under the Act.

The petitioner claimed that it was unaware that the lady was pregnant and that it was only informed of her pregnancy after the relieving letter was issued on her on October 17, 2018.

As a result, it was argued that the woman’s award of maternity assistance for six months under the Act was unsustainable. It was contended that the Petitioner had no idea that the woman was seven months pregnant when the relieving letter was delivered to her.

On the other hand, it was claimed on behalf of the woman that she sent an email to the Petitioner on October 17, 2018, previous to receiving the relieving letter.

It was claimed that in the aforementioned email, she informed the Petitioner institution that she was at an advanced stage of pregnancy and that she would be needed to take maternity leave beginning November 1, 2018.

The copy of the email received from the Labour Commissioner’s office was brought on record by Additional Standing Counsel Satyakam, who was representing the Labour Commissioner. He claimed that the woman sent an email to the Petitioner institution on October 17, 2018, and that the relieving letter was only sent after that. According to him, the petitioner’s case was utterly distorted by the stated email.

The Court ordered that, in addition to the awarded amount, litigation expenses of Rs.50,000 be given to the woman, noting that the awarded money had not been paid since 2018 and that three years had already gone in pursuing this action.

It also stated that the entire award sum, as well as the litigation fees, must be paid by December 30, 2021.

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