The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear next week a plea seeking a direction to all the states to frame rules for menstrual pain leaves for female students and working women at their respective work places.
The plea was mentioned for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, which said it would be listed on February 24. The petition, filed by Delhi resident Shailendra Mani Tripathi, has also sought a direction to the Centre and all the states for compliance of Section 14 of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
Section 14 of the Act deals with appointment of inspectors and says appropriate government may appoint such officers and may define the local limits of jurisdiction within which they shall exercise their functions under this law.
The plea, which was mentioned for urgent listing by petitioner’s advocate Vishal Tiwari, said countries like the United Kingdom, China, Wales, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, Spain and Zambia are already providing menstrual pain leave in one form or the other.
It said only women are empowered to propagate the human race with their special ability of creation and during different stages of maternity, they undergo a number of physical and mental hardships, be it menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage or any other related medical complications.
The plea said the 1961 Act makes provisions for almost all the problems faced by women that can be understood by several of its provisions which have made it mandatory for employers to grant paid leave to women employees for certain number of days during pregnancy, in case of miscarriage, for tubectomy operation and also in cases of medical complications arising out of these stages of maternity.
“Ironically, the most disappointing aspect in the direction of respecting the rights of working women, is that in spite of a provision under section 14 of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, that there will be an inspector for a particular area to monitor the implementation of such great provisions, no government in India has created the post of inspectors, forget about the appointment of such inspectors,” the plea claimed.
It said the provisions of law under the 1961 Act are one of the “greatest steps” taken by Parliament to recognise and respect motherhood and maternity of working women.
“Definitely even today also, in several organisations, including government organisations, these provisions are not being implemented in their true spirit and with the same legislative intent with which it was enacted but at the same time, one of the biggest aspects of this whole issue or one of the very basic problems related to maternity which are faced by every woman has been completely ignored by the legislature in this very good law and also by the executive while making rules, specifically the leave rules,” the petition said.
It said the central civil services (CCS) leave rules have made provisions like child care leave for a woman for a period of 730 days during her entire service period to take care of her first two children till they attain the age of 18 years.
The plea said this rule has also given 15 days of paternity leave to male employees to take care of a child, which is another great step of a welfare state in recognising the rights and problems of working women.
“In spite of making all the above mentioned provisions in law to take care of women in difficult stages of her maternity, the very first stage of the maternity, the menstrual period, has been knowingly or unknowingly ignored by society, the legislature and other stake holders in society except few organisations and state governments,” it alleged.
The plea said Bihar is the only state which has been providing two days of special menstrual pain leave to women since 1992. It said there are some Indian companies that offer paid period leaves which include Zomato, Byju’s and Swiggy.