BENGALURU: The Karnataka HC has said the 26-week maternity benefit , which came into force through an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act in 2017 , does not classify or qualify a mother to be a government servant, temporary employee, employee on contract or an employee on daily wages.
The HC made the observation while coming to the rescue of BS Rajeshwari, who was contracted to work as project information officer in the directorate of municipal administration.
Directorate told to reinstate employee, pay her 50% wages.
Rajeshwari had approached the court after she was denied maternity leave and terminated from service on the ground of absence from work in August 2019.
The court directed the directorate to immediately reinstate the employee in the same post, pay her 50% of wages from day of termination to that of reinstatement, besides giving her Rs 25,000 in cost, which will be recovered from the officer who issued the termination notice.
Justice M Nagaprasanna said despite Rajeshwari’s requests to consider her case on humanitarian and legal grounds — both before and after delivery of her child on July 23, 2019 at Bhadravati, Shivamogga district — the authorities failed to consider the position of law. The judge described her plight thus: “I chose motherhood, the state chose to terminate me. The pendulum of (her) fate swung from the buoyance of hope to despair.” The judge said men who hold such offices “become insensitive to the (the kind of) issues alleged in the petition. It would become ‘power in the wrong hands’.”
Rajeshwari was hired on annual contract in November 2009 for a pay of Rs 17,000 and Rs 2,000 as monthly travel allowance. Latest renewal of contract allowed her to work till March 31, 2020. The employee sought to proceed on leave on June11,2019.Instead,she received a notice on June 25, 2019, asking her to report to duty since maternal benefits were not mentioned in the contract and office work was seriously hampered by her absence.
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