Top 30 Landmark Supreme Court & Other Important Judgments On Women Rights, Protection & Prosperity in India
- SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
- ACCESS TO PLACES OF WORSHIP
- ACID ATTACKS
- SEX SELECTION & TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY
- DOWRY DEATHS
- MATERNITY BENEFITS
1. Dhananjay Chatterjee v. the State Of W.B, (1994) 2 SCC 220
In this case, a school girl was raped and murdered by the security guard of the building. The security guard was later apprehended and tried for the crimes he had committed. The trial court found him guilty and awarded a punishment of death for murder and life imprisonment for Rape. On appeal, the High Court confirmed the sentence of death awarded.
The Supreme Court held that guilt was proved beyond reasonable doubt in the instant case and confirmed the verdict given by the courts below. On the count of the sentence, it was held that the courts must respond to the society’s cry for justice in a manner which is proportionate to the crime which has been committed.
It was held that there were many aggravating factors in the instant case. The security guard who was supposed to protect the girl had been the oppressor and criminal. It was held that while imposing a sentence the courts must keep in mind the rights of the victims, their families and also the society.
Thus the court followed a very strict approach in this case and confirmed the sentence of death which was imposed by the lower courts.
2. Shimbhu & Anr v. State of Haryana, MANU/SC/0871/2013
In this case the prosecutrix lived in a village and on the morning of one day, when she was going to attend the nature’s call, the two appellants came to her asking her to accompany them to their shop. When she resisted, she was taken on gunpoint and was gang raped repeatedly for two days.
The trial court awarded them a sentence of 10 years rigorous imprisonment for the offence of Gang Rape and a 3 year and 6 month rigorous imprisonment for other offences. In Appeal the High Court agreed with the sentence given by the trial court.
The Supreme Court while hearing the appeal observed that several lower courts and High Courts had invoked the proviso to Sec 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to reduce the sentences and this showed insensitivity by not providing proportionate punishments.
It was held that compromise in Rape cases cannot be a ground for reducing the sentences since the crime is against the society and an accused may try to influence a victim for compromising if a compromise was allowed. The court rejected the appeal and confirmed the sentences given to the two accused.
3. The State of Punjab v Gurmit Singh, 1996 AIR 1393
In this case, a girl of 16 years was gang-raped by three men who had abducted the girl when she had gone to give her exam. The trial court exonerated the accused on the ground that only the testimony of the girl was available. She was not able to tell in which car she had been abducted and the medical evidence showed that she was habitual to sex. There was also some enmity between the family members and the girl had tried to falsely implicate the accused and she also did not raise alarm.
The Supreme Court came down heavily on the lower court and held that the grounds for disbelieving the prosecutrix were not sound. No fault can be attributed to her for not raising an alarm and for the reasons of a botched inquiry.
It was held that even if the evidence showed that the prosecutrix was habituated to sex then no inference can be drawn that she had a loose character. She had a right to refuse sexual intercourse to anyone she wanted. Thus the Supreme Court awarded a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for 5 years for the offence of Rape and set aside the findings of the trial court.
4. Mukesh & another v. State for NCT of Delhi, CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 607-608 OF 2017
This case is also known as Nirbhaya case which had invoked nationwide protests and demonstrations regarding the poor nature of the protection which was available to the Indian Women.
In this case the deceased was a Medical student who was returning late in the night with her friend in a bus. The driver and conductor of the bus along with the other accused, drove all night in the bus repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting her. She was later dumped on the road in a half dead position and she succumbed to her injuries.
The accused were found guilty of having gang raped and murdered her. They were sentenced to death and their punishments were confirmed by the High Court as well as the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held that the devilish manner in which the deceased was assaulted, the insertion of a rod in her private parts and the acts of the accused persons in destroying the evidence, shock the conscious of the society. It was held that the acts of the accused persons portray the mental perversion and the brutality caused by them and as such the courts down below had righty awarded the death penalty to them.
II. SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE-
5. Vishaka v State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 301
In this case a Writ Petition was filed was filed for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights under Art. 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. It was contended that the recent incidents of Rape and Sexual Harassment had curtailed the freedoms of the women in India and there was general apprehension in the minds of the women with regard to their safety.
The Court took notice of the issue at hand and agreed that there was indeed a void which needed to be filled. The court for the first time invoked the International Covenants to which India was a party and signatory. It specifically relied on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979 (CEDAW), to adjudicate the instant petition.
The Court held that there was a need to provide a safe environment to women which was free from Sexual Harassment and as such it made several guidelines for the implementation by the Employers and the Government.
It was directed that the Employer had a duty to detect and deter such crimes and every employer was duty bound to take appropriate steps in order to curb the incidences of sexual harassment.
6. Apparel Export Promotion Council v A.K. Chopra, AIR 1999 SC 625
In this case a female employee who was a typist was molested by the Respondent during her. She filed a complaint with the chairman and the Respondent was placed on suspension. An enquiry was initiated by the company’s Disciplinary Authority and the respondent was found guilty and thus he was terminated.
He filed a Writ before the High Court which held that the Respondent had only tried to molest the female employee and not actually molest her, thus he was reinstated without backwages. He filed an appeal before the division bench for backwages which concurred with the finding of the single judge bench.
The Supreme Court found the findings of the High Court’s erroneous and misplaced. It was held that in such a case the testimony of the victim needs to be looked into and other facts such as respondent trying to sit close to the female employee after repeated protests and that the respondent tried to hold her and touch her are all indicative of the fact that the respondent indulged in Sexual Harassment. Thus the finding and decision of the Disciplinary Authority was reinstated.
7. D.S. Grewal v Vimi Joshi, (2009) 2 SCC 210
In this case the accused person was a colonel in the Army and he was the vice-chairman of a school management committee. The Respondent joined as a teacher in the school and was later made the Principal. The accused used to send sexually coloured love letters to the respondent and had also made sexual advances towards her.
She filed a complaint with the chairman of the school who was a brigadier, however, no action was taken and instead the respondent was terminated from services. She filed a Writ before the High Court challenging her termination.
The High Court held that the management of the school had failed in initiating a Disciplinary Enquiry against the accused and it was a clear cut case of sexual harassment.
In Appeal against the order of the High Court, it was held by the Supreme Court that no complaint committee was made by the management of the school and it was guilty of the same. It was further held that it was a matter of regret that an institution which has so much of discipline failed to provide a redressal mechanism to the victim.
The High Court was directed to constitute a committee which would be headed by a lady to look into the charges of Sexual Harassment made by the respondent.
8. Medha Kotwal Lele v. Union of India, (2013) 1 SCC 297
In this case a Public Interest Litigation was filed on the grounds that the guidelines issued in the case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, were not being followed and implemented. It was stated that women were still being subjected to incidences of sexual harassment at their workplaces and they are made to suffer horrors, insult by legal and extra legal methods.
The Supreme Court took note of the petition and the contentions that the ineffective implementation and lack of zeal to prevent sexual harassment had blown away the objective behind the Vishaka guidelines.
The Court held that there must be adherence and observance of the vishaka guidelines in letter spirit. Directions were issued that all the states must make amendments in their service rules that the inquiry report of the complaints committee must be considered as the inquiry report by the Disciplinary Authority. It was also directed that all organisations whether public or private must place mechanisms so that a witness or victim is not intimidated.
Further it was held that if any person faced grievance of any sort with regard to non-compliance of the Vishaka guidelines, then the aggrieved person could move to the High Court for necessary directions.
9. D.Velusamy v D.Patchaiammal, (2010) 10 SCC 469
In this case the Supreme Court recognised the concept of live-in relationships. The facts of the case were that a woman had filed for maintenance under the provisions of sec. 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1970. She had claimed that she lived with the husband for a few years and then the husband deserted her.
Whereas the appellant claimed that he was married another woman and also produced certain documents. The lower courts held that the respondent was married to the appellant and granted her maintenance.
The Supreme Court after consideration held that the courts below had erred in not hearing the other woman with whom the appellant had claimed marriage and as such till the time she was not heard maintenance could not be granted.
Dwelling on to the path of a wife as per the Domestic Violence Act, 2005,(hereinafter referred to as the DV Act) the court held that a new relationship had come into practice and the provisions of the DV Act would be applicable to such a relationship for the interest of the girl.
It was held that in order to prove a livein-relationship it would have to be shown that in spite of no marriage the couple were living together as if they were husband and wife.
10. V.D.Bhanot v Savita Bhanot, (2012) 3 SCC 183
In this case a petition was filed by the wife under the provisions of the DV Act, for maintenance and for seeking protection and accommodation as per the provisions of the DV Act. The magistrate gave an order in favour of the wife, however dissatisfied with it she filed an appeal before the Additional Sessions judge. The appellate court dismissed her claim on the ground that the cause of action had arisen before the coming of the DV Act in force and as such it was not maintainable.
In appeal the Delhi High Court held that the act would be applicable to cases where the cause of action had arisen before the coming of the DV Act in to force.
Agreeing with the Delhi High Court, the Supreme Court held that the intention of the parliament was to protect the rights of a woman enshrined in Art. 14, 15 and 21 and as such the DV Act would be applicable to cases where the cause of action arose before the DV Act came into force.
It was held that the wife in the instant case was to be provided with accommodation and maintenance in accordance with the DV Act.
11. Krishna Bhatacharjee v. Sarathi Choudhury, 2015 (12) SCALE 521
In this case the appellant had filed an application under the provisions of the DV Act for seeking her streedhan from her husband. The application was rejected on the grounds that her claim was belatedly delayed and also since the decree of judicial separation had been made. The magistrate held that the appellant was an aggrieved person but since there was no domestic relationship between the appellant and the respondent she could not be granted the relief
In appeal the Supreme Court rejected the findings the Lower court. It was held that a petition under the DV Aact would be maintainable even if the cause of action had arisen before the DV Act came into force. It was further held it would be immaterial if the parties were no longer living together after the passage of the DV Act.
The court further held that judicial separation does not amount to dissolving of the marriage and the relationship between the parties existed and a wife would not cease to be an aggrieved person after judicial separation. It was observed that the wife had filed the application for Streedhan, since the husband had stopped paying the maintenance. Thus the application of the appellant was allowed.
12. Saraswathy v. Babu, (2014) 3 SCC 712
In this case the Appellant was married to the respondent in the year 2000 and it was alleged by her that she had brought jewellery along with Rs. 10,000 rupees at the time of marriage. After some months of the marriage she was asked by the family of the respondent for dowry and when the demands were not met she was thrown out of the house by the respondent and his family members.
The Appellant in the meanwhile filed an application for restitution of conjugal rights and a petition for dissolution of marriage was filed by the Respondent. The Lower court allowed the application of the appellant whereas the petition for dissolution of marriage was dismissed.
In the year 2008, the Appellant filed a petition seeking relief under the DV Act which was partly allowed and she was granted the claim for maintenance along with the relief of residing in the shared household.
The Respondent disobeyed the orders and a contempt petition was filed by the Appellant in the High Court. The High Court disposed of the Contempt petition and held that the offences alleged were committed before the DV Act came into force and as such the violence did not amount to domestic violence.
In Appeal the Supreme Court held that the acts of the Respondent were squarely covered under the provisions of the DV Act. It was held that the high court made an error by taking into consideration the fact that the offences committed were prior to the enforcement of the DV Act. It was held that apart from the relief of residing in the shared household, the Appellant was also entitled for compensation for injuries, mental torture and emotional distress for the domestic violence committed by the Respondent.
IV. ACCESS TO PLACES OF WORSHIP-
13. Indian Young Lawyer’s Association v. The State of Karnataka, W.P. (C) NO. 373 OF 2006
In this case, the question before the Supreme Court was regarding the entry of women from the age of 10 to 50 inside the Lord Ayappa temple at Sabarimala, Kerala. The administration of the trust had banned the entry of women devotees based on certain customs and usage.
The matter was being heard by a three judge’s bench which referred the instant case to larger constitution bench comprising of five judges.
It was held by the court that the devotees of Lord Ayappa do not constitute a different and separate religious class. Thus they are Hindus and Art 25 of the Constitution aims at protecting the rights of all persons including women.
It was held that the exclusionary practice at Sabarimala was violating the rights of the women since it imposed a restriction on their freedom and as such the Rule which placed a restriction on their entry was violative of their Right to Worship.
It was further held that the exclusion of women cannot regarded as an essential religious practice and thus the writ petition was allowed and the rule placing the ban on women’s entry was struck down.
14. Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz v. State ofMaharashtra, 2016 SCC Online Bom 5394.
In this case, the question before the Bombay High Court was that whether women could be allowed entry into the Sanctum Sanctorum inside the Haji Ali Dargah? The Petitioners were women who contended that till the year 2012 they were allowed entry inside the Sanctum Sanctorum but in the year 2012, the managing committee placed a ban on the entry of women whereas the men were allowed to enter the same.
It was contended that this was against the principle of equality and the committee could only manage the affairs of the dargah and not put restrictions. Whereas the dargah committee contended that the ban was to prevent sexual harassment since the place gets overcrowded.
The Court held that the ban was not justified and it ran counter to the provisions of Equality. The contentions of the committee were unfounded and the committee was a charitable trust and thus it had to adhere to the principles of the Constitution. The ban was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
It was further held that the dargah could not establish that the ban was essential and also that the trust had the power of administering the property and not to determine the matters of Religion.
15. Vidya Bal v. The State of Maharashtra, PIL No. 55 of 2016 (Bombay High Court)
Shani Shingnapur is a temple in Maharashtra which was following a four hundred year old tradition of not allowing women inside the temple. In the year 2011 although the gates were opened for women, they were not allowed into the sanctum sanctorum which was in the form of a raised platform.
It was believed that the raised platform will be a bad omen for women as Lord Shani will cast an evil eye on them. It was claimed that prohibiting women was a matter of spiritual science and therefore the entry to the sanctum sanctorum was necessary.
A PIL was filed in the Bombay High Court by two Pune based activists Vidya Bal and Nilima Vartak alleging discrimination by the trustees and administration of the Shani Shingnapur temple.
The High Court while adjudicating on the matter held the practice to be contrary to the principle of equality embodied in the constitution.
The government of Maharashtra in the year 1956 had passed a law i.e. the Maharashtra Hindu Places of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956 to enable entry for Dalits who were forbidden to enter the public temples by Hindus.
It was held that since an act was already in force which allowed temple entry to everyone its proper implementation was required. In this manner the court opened the gates of the temple to everyone irrespective of their gender.
V. ACID ATTACKS-
16. Laxmi v. Union of India, AIR 2015 SC 3662
In this case, a Public Interest Litigation had been filed by an NGO namely Laxmi for seeking appropriate directions from the Court with regard to compensation and other assistance to held and aid the Acid Attack victims.
During the course of hearings, the Court had directed to award compensation to the tune of Rs. 3,00,000/- to the acid attack victims, however, it was found by the Court that many state governments had not fixed the compensation in accordance with the directions of the court.
The Court gave further directions that a victim must be provided with full medical assistance free of cost from medicines to food and bed in the Hospital. Private hospitals were also directed to provide free of cost medical treatment to such victims. Hospitals were also directed to issue a certificate to the victim which could be used later on by the victim to get treatment of skin reconstruction etc.
The State Legal Service Authorities were directed to publicize the victim compensation scheme widely so that every person became aware of it. The Central and State Governments were directed to oversee that a ban is placed on the sale of acid in the markets.
17. Parivartan Kendra v. UOI, 2015 (13) SCALE 325
In this case, a Public Interest Litigation was filed by an NGO Parivartan Kendra wherein they contended that in spite of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Laxmi v. Union of India, the same were not being followed by the state authorities. It was stated that Acid was still freely available in the market.
It was also highlighted that two sisters in Bihar were attacked by some people and the family had been given only Rs. 2,42,000/ for the treatment from the government and the victims’ statements were not recorded by the police.
The Supreme Court took cognizance and directed the State Governments to ensure that the directions given in the case of Laxmi were duly followed and implemented. Directions were also given to take action against the erring authorities.
With regard to compensation, the Supreme Court held that the guidelines in Laxmi do not prohibit to increase the compensation and thus the Court enhanced the compensation awarded to the sisters and both were given a compensation of Rs. 13,00,000/ for their medical treatment. he State Government was directed to ensure that the compensation is granted to the survivors.
VI. SEX SELECTION & TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY-
18. Sabu Mathew George v. Union of India, 2016(12) SCALE 75
In this case, a Writ Petition was filed by a public-spirited person for getting directions for the implementation of The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (hereinafter referred to as the Act). It was contended by him that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology with the help of its agencies shall block all websites which were advertising and promoting sex selection techniques by way of including them in their search results.
The petitioner specifically requested that giant software companies such as Google Ltd., Yahoo and Microsoft must also be directed to act in consonance with the provisions of the Act.
The three software companies accepted their responsibility and agreed to put up a warning message regarding the keyword searches which were related to sex determination techniques.
The Court after considering the question of access to information with regard to search results directed for the establishment of a Nodal Agency which would ensure the deletion of any such search result. It also gave directions for auto-blocking the results related to sex determination techniques after considering the point of access to information.
19. Ms. X v. Union of India, AIR 2016 SC 3525
In this case the Petitioner was a rape survivor and she became pregnant. She had a foetus of 24 weeks and it was ‘abnormal’. She petitioned the court for the abortion of the foetus.
The Apex court gave directions for the constitution of a Medical Board comprising of experts which could assess the situation and aid the court in coming to a conclusion. The Medical Board opined that there were several abnormalities in the foetus and it could endanger the life of the mother both physically and mentally.
It is to be noted that Sec 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) places a bar on the termination of a pregnancy which exceeds more than 20 weeks.
The Court interpreted Sec 5 of the Act, which talks about an exception as to when the foetus can be aborted to save the life of a pregnant woman. The court held that in the instant case it was necessary to abort the foetus of the pregnant child in order to save her life and thus allowed the petition.
20. Suchita Srivastava & anr v. Chandigarh Administration, 2009 (11) SCALE 813
In this case a division bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana had given directions for the termination of the Pregnancy of a mentally retarded woman. It was held that doing so was in her best interest as she had become pregnant after being raped at a healthcare institution and she was also an orphan.
The High Court in its wisdom had appointed an expert body which stated that the victim had shown her willingness to bear the child. The High Court ignored the report and gave directions for the termination of the pregnancy.
Aggrieved by the stand taken by the High Court, the Appellants moved the Supreme Court. They stated that the woman in question had been pregnant for more than 19 weeks and the statutory limit for terminating the pregnancy was 20 weeks.
It was held by the Supreme Court that the pregnancy cannot be terminated without the consent of the victim. It was held that the reproductive choice of the victim needs to be respected and she should be given the choice to go ahead and bear the child.
It was further held that a pregnancy can be terminated only when a medical expert was satisfied that there was a risk to the life of the pregnant women or a grave injury was possible to the physical or mental health. It was held that the high court had invoke the doctrine of parens patriae but the victim had showed her willingness to bear the child.
It was held that the order of the High Court was not in the best interest of the victim and as such the order was reversed. Directions were also given to provide assistance for child care to the victim.
VII. DOWRY DEATHS-
21. Kans Raj v. the State Of Punjab, (2000) 5 SCC 207
In this case, the deceased was found dead within three years of her marriage from the house of her in-laws. The parents of the deceased were not informed about her death and the death had not happened in normal circumstances but in extraordinary circumstances as a result of asphyxia.
The father of the deceased filed a complaint under Section 302 and section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 all the respondents. The husband along with the other respondents was found guilty and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment.
In appeal the High Court acquitted the respondents of all the charges and the revision petition which was filed by the father was also dismissed
The Supreme Court while adjudicating the appeal held that there was cogent evidence to show that after the marriage demands of dowry had been made.
It was held that is a woman is found dead within the seven years of her marriage, not in the usual course but apparently under suspicious circumstances, then it would be deemed that her dowry death was caused by the husband and his relatives.
As such Supreme Court reversed the order of the High Court and found the husband and the respondents guilty of having committed the dowry death of the diseased.
22. Pawan Kumar & Ors v. the State Of Haryana, (1998 (3) SCC 309)
In this case, the appellants were convicted for offenses committed under section 306, 498-A and 304 B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The first appellant was the deceased’s husband and the other appellants were his parents. The appellant and the deceased were married and within a few days the deceased returned to her matrimonial home complaining that demands for dowry were being made.
On the non-fulfillment of the same, the deceased was allegedly tortured and the same drove her to commit suicide. The Supreme Court convicted the husband but set aside the sentences of the other appellants.
It was held that evidence was on record to show that demands for dowry were being made and that too within a few days of the marriage. It was further held that the husband had been involved in committing acts of mental cruelty on the deceased and the same drove her to commit suicide.
It was held that for the purpose of the provisions cruelty and harassment would not only mean physical but also mental. As such the husband had committed the dowry death of the deceased.
23. Sher Singh v. the State of Haryana, 2015 (13) SCALE 901
The position prior to this case was that in cases of Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 it was to be shown and not on the basis of a preponderance of probabilities that the prosecution could discharge its initial burden and place the presumption of guilt on the accused.
Meaning thereby that the prosecution had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person had committed the crime of dowry death. However, the instant case has shifted the burden on the accused now, to prove that he did not commit the crime.
In this case the deceased was married to the Appellant and it was alleged that he was making demands of dowry from the deceased. One day the family of the deceased was informed that she had committed suicide by consuming poison.
Although the Supreme Court absolved the accused persons of having committed acts of cruelty and making demands of dowry, it was held that the prosecution needs to only show and not prove that dowry-related demands were made. Once it is shown then the burden would be entirely on the accused to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that he was innocent.
This case is a departure from the settled principles and has made the dowry-related provisions even more stringent.
VIII. MATERNITY BENEFITS-
24. Mrs. Neera Mathur v Life Insurance Corporation of India, 1992 AIR 392
In this case, the petitioner was appointed on the post of an assistant in the Life Insurance Corporation of India. She had successfully cleared the written test and interview and she was kept on probation.
She was declared medically fit by an impanelled doctor of the Corporation. She was initially kept on probation for a period of 6 months which was supposed to be confirmed if her services were found satisfactory.
She applied for maternity leave during the probation and gave a medical certificate with regard to it. She delivered a baby and later on she was discharged from her service. In the order of discharge, no Grounds were given as to why she was being removed.
She petitioned the High Court against the order of discharge which was rejected and hence she filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.
It was found by the Supreme Court that there was nothing to show that the service period of probation was not satisfactory.
It was held that the undertaking which was furnished by the petitioner included certain questions which were very embarrassing and humiliating such as those with regard to the Menstruation cycle of the petitioner.
It was held that this showed that the country was moving towards achieving rights for women whereas the Life Insurance Corporation is not moving beyond. The order of discharge was set aside and it was held that the petitioner was entitled to reinstatement.
25. Municipal Corporation of Delhi v Female Workers, AIR 2000 SC 1274
In this case, female workers were engaged by the municipal corporation of Delhi on daily wages. They raised a dispute that they should also be granted the benefits of maternity leave which was only available to the regular female employees. They stated that they were denied the benefits on the ground that their services were not regularized.
The Industrial Tribunal allowed the claim filed by the female workers and gave directions to the municipal corporation of Delhi that it was to provide the benefits of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 to those female workers who were in continuous employment of more than three years.
The municipal corporation challenged the award before the High Court which dismissed the petition and confirmed the award of the Industrial Tribunal. In appeal, the division bench of the High Court too dismissed the petition.
The Supreme Court while adjudicating the appeal held that Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was passed by the parliament in order to provide facilities to a working woman in a manner so that she could take care of her motherhood in an honorable manner, without the fear of being penalised for her absence from her workplace.
The Supreme Court agreed with the award made by the Industrial Tribunal and held that the women who were employed on daily wages must be extended the benefits of maternity leave if they were employed in a continuous service of more than 3 years.
26. B. Shah v Presiding Officer, Labour Court 1978 AIR 12
In this case, the respondent was working in a plantation industry and she was allowed maternity leave since she was expecting delivery. Post her delivery, the employers paid her wages which were equal to the amount which she would have been entitled to on the basis of her daily wage calculated on 72 days within 12 weeks of the Maternity period. The Sundays were excluded from the amount paid to her.
She was not happy with the deductions made and as such she requested her employers to pay her benefits for 84 days on the basis of 7 days a week and not 6 days week. She filed a claim before the Labour Court and the award was given in her favour.
The establishment then challenged the award of the Labour Court before the High Court which allowed the petition of the management. The respondent then filed an appeal before the division bench of the High Court which held that she was entitled for wages including Sundays. The aggrieved establishment then petitioned the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held that Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is a beneficial piece of legislation and the same aims at achieving Social Justice for working women and hence it should be constructed beneficially.
It was held that a female worker who was expecting is entitled to Maternity Benefits for a maximum period of 12 weeks.
This period is supposed to be divided into two out of which the first half is for the prenatal care period and the second half is for the postnatal care period from the day of delivery. It was held that while computing the benefits the Sunday has to be included and the computation is supposed to be based on 7 days and not 6 days.
27. Kakali Ghosh v Chief Secy. A & N Administration, Civil Appeal No. 4506/2014
In this case, the appellant had applied for child care leave for a period of initially 6 months for taking care of her child who was in class 10th. While her application was pending she was transferred to another place. She again sent a letter requesting for child care leave for 730 days in continuation.
She requested the competent authority to allow her to take child care leave so that she could take care of her responsibilities. She was allowed leave for only 45 days. Aggrieved by the order, the appellant filed a claim before the Central Administrative Tribunal which allowed her application in view of the rules made under the central civil services leave rules, 1972. These rules allowed for child care leave for 730 days uninterruptedly.
The order passed by the Tribunal was challenged before the High Court and the High Court in its wisdom held that the child care leave could not be availed uninterruptedly but rather it could be taken in short periods. Aggrieved by the order of the High Court the appellant petitioned the Supreme Court
After going through the service rules, the Apex Court held that central government employee who was a woman and having a minor child could avail a maximum period of 730 days during the entire service period for taking care of her children.
It was further held that the Tribunal had ordered correctly and in accordance with the guidelines and the rules made thereof. It was held that the 730 days of childcare leave at a stretch could be taken by the female employee for taking care of her son and therefore the appeal was allowed.
28. Air India v. Nergesh Meerza, 1981 AIR 1829
In this case, certain discriminatory rules made by Air India were under the scanner of the Supreme Court. The Rules formulated by Air India were that an Air Hostess would retire on attaining the age of 35 years, or on marriage if the marriage is contracted within the first four years of service or on the first pregnancy of the Air Hostess, whichever was earlier.
The age of retirement of the Air Hostess was fixed at 35 whereas the age of retirement of other employees was different. There was another Rule which gave the power to the Managing Director to increase the age of retirement of an Air Hostess on his discretion to 45. These rules were challenged on the grounds of being discriminatory and regressive in nature.
The court held the Rules as unconstitutional and struck them down. It was held that the rules were arbitrary in nature and in violation of A. 14 of the Constitution. It was further held that excessive power was being delegated in the hands of the Managing Director and till the time a uniform policy was taken up the age of retirement for all Air Hostess would be 45.
29. C. B. Muthamma v. Union of India, 1979 AIR 1868
In this case the petitioner was a member of the Indian Foreign Services and she alleged discriminatory practices in the service for which she was denied promotion. She contended that there was a hostile environment towards women and she had to furnish an undertaking that she would resign if she married.
She further challenged some service rules which said that a woman member had to obtain permission before marriage from the government and if it was found that her married life was hampering her duties then she may have to resign.
The Court held that such rules were against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. During the pendency of the case one of the rules was deleted and the other was on the verge of being deleted and the petitioner was also promoted.
It was held by the Court that if a woman has to obtain permission from the government before marriage then the same set of reasoning is also applicable to men. It was held that what rules are applicable to a man must also be applicable to a married woman.
It was further held by the court that the Government must have a relook at the rules and services to remove any stains of discrimination from it.
30. Khursheed Ahmad Khan v. State of UP, AIR 2015 SC 1429
In this case, the appellant was working in the government sector and there was a rule that if a person contracted a second marriage when the first wife was alive and no divorce had been taken with the first wife, then the person would be removed from his services.
Basically, the service rules said that if a person indulged in bigamy then he would be in contravention of the service rules and he could be dismissed from service.
The Supreme Court held that the service rule was not in contravention of Article 25 of the Constitution of India. It was held that the Article aims to protect religious faith and not a practice which ran counter to public policy and morality.
It was further held that bigamy was not an essential religious practice and the service rules were not at all impinging upon the faith of a person. The rules were made in order to curb practices which were against public order, health and morality.
It was held that the Appellant was guilty of misconduct and thus he would have to be penalized in accordance with the punishment that was laid down in the service rules.