New Delhi, Pretr. The constitutional validity of a provision of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, entitlement of 12 weeks of maternity leave to a woman who has legally adopted a child below the age of three months, has been challenged. The Supreme Court has sought a response from the Central Government on this PIL.
Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari issued notice to the Centre. In the petition, Section 5(4) of the Act has been described as discriminatory and arbitrary towards adoptive mothers. The petitioner, Karnataka resident Hamsanandini Nanduri says that according to this section a couple has to adopt a child below the age of three months to avail 12 weeks of maternity leave. There is no provision for maternity leave for a mother who adopts an orphan or destitute child above the age of three months. Because of such discrimination in the law, couples would prefer to adopt newborn children over older ones.
12 weeks to the adoptive mother and 26 weeks to the biological mother
According to the petition, Section 5(4) of the Act discriminates not only between children but also between biological mother and adoptive mother. The petitioner has also objected to the period of maternity leave provided to the adoptive mother in comparison to the biological mother. According to the law, the adoptive mother gets 12 weeks maternity benefit while the biological mother gets 26 weeks maternity benefit.
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