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Cannot deny child-care leave to mother of disabled child: Supreme Court

The top court also ordered that the Centre be made party to the case and sought the assistance of Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati in adjudicating it.

Edited By: Hritika Mitra @MitraHritika New Delhi Published on: April 23, 2024 10:32 IST
The woman's son suffers from a genetic disorder and has
Image Source : FILE The woman's son suffers from a genetic disorder and has undergone several surgeries since birth.

The Supreme Court termed denying child-care leaves to a mother who is taking care of a child with disabilities, as a 'serious' issue. It further stated that denying child-care leave will violate the constitutional duty of the State to ensure equal participation of women in the workforce. A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala also directed setting up of a committee headed by the chief secretary of Himachal Pradesh to take a policy decision on the issue of grant of child-care leaves (CCLs) to the working women having children with disabilities.

It said the plea raised a "serious" issue and "participation of women in the workforce is not a matter of privilege but a constitutional requirement and the State as a model employer cannot be oblivious of this".  It, meanwhile, also directed the state authorities to consider the plea for grant of CCL to the petitioner woman, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography in the state. Her son suffers from a genetic disorder and has undergone several surgeries since birth. She exhausted the sanctioned leaves due to the treatment of her son and the central civil service rules provided for CCLs.

"The child care leave sub-serves an important constitutional objective where women are not denied an equal opportunity in the workforce," the bench said, adding that the denial of such leaves may compel a working mother to leave the job and it is more crucial for a woman having a child with special needs. It directed the state government to revise its policy on CCL to make it consistent with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. It said that besides the chief secretary, the committee will have secretaries of women and child development and the social welfare department of the state and it will have to take a decision on the issue of CCL by July 31.

"Ultimately, the plea does entrench on areas of policy and areas of State policy must be synchronous with constitutional safeguards. We direct the State of Himachal Pradesh to reconsider CCL to mothers consistent with the RPWD Act for mothers who are bringing up mothers of children with special needs," the CJI said. Earlier, the top court had issued a notice to the state government and the director of higher education on the plea on October 29, 2021. Later, it also sought the response of the commissioner under The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

(With inputs from PTI)

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