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Supreme Court refuses to entertain PIL seeking menstrual pain leave for female students, working women

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The Supreme Court Friday refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to all the states to frame rules for menstrual pain leave for female students and working women at their respective workplaces, observing that the issue falls under the policy domain of the government, A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud disposed of the petition and granted liberty to the PIL petitioner to approach the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development with a representation seeking a policy decision on the issue.

“This is a policy matter so we are not dealing with this…Having regard to the policy views, it would be appropriate if the petitioner approaches the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. The petition is accordingly disposed of,” said the bench which also comprised justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala.

During the brief hearing, the bench took note of the submissions of a law student, opposing the PIL, that if employers are compelled to grant menstrual pain leaves to women employees every month then it may dis-incentivise them from hiring them.

The court, however, said though the plea had raised some important points, but the issue being a policy related, it cannot entertain this. The petition, filed by Delhi resident Shailendra Mani Tripathi through lawyer Vishal Tiwari, had 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 governments may appoint such officers and may define the local limits of jurisdiction within which they shall exercise their functions under this law.

Earlier on February 15, the top court had agreed to hear the PIL.

The plea had 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 had said only women are empowered to propagate the human race with their special ability of creation and during different stages of maternity, she undergoes a number of physical and mental hardships, be it menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage or any other related medical complications.

The had 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 had claimed.

It had 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 had said.

It said the central civil services (CCS) leave rules have made provisions like child care leave for women 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 had 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 stakeholders in society except few organisations and state governments,” it had alleged.

The plea had 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.

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