Denying women childcare leave violation of constitution: Supreme Court [23.4.2024]

The Supreme Court has said denying women childcare leave is a violation of their “constitutional entitlement” to participate in the workforce.

A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala said this on Monday while hearing a plea by an assistant professor in Government College, Nalagarh, alleging the Himachal Pradesh government had denied her leave to attend to her child who suffers from a genetic condition.

Highlighting the significance of women's participation in the workforce, the bench underscored Article 15 of the Constitution, which safeguards this entitlement. It further stressed that as a model employer, the state must address the specific needs of women in the workforce, including provisions for childcare leave.

The court noted the constitutional imperative of ensuring women's uninterrupted participation in the workforce, particularly mothers with children requiring special care. Recognising the petitioner's situation, the court ordered the state of Himachal Pradesh to align its policies with constitutional safeguards, including those outlined in the Right to Persons With Disabilities Act.

To facilitate policy alignment, the court directed the formation of a committee, comprising key stakeholders, to examine the grant of childcare leave to mothers, especially those with children with special needs. This committee's report is mandated to inform policy decisions promptly.

The petitioner, whose son suffers from a rare genetic disorder, faced denial of childcare leave due to the state's non-adoption of relevant provisions. Despite approaching the High Court, relief was denied, prompting the appeal to the Supreme Court.

In response to the plea, the Supreme Court emphasised the necessity of childcare leave, urging the state to provide such provisions independently or by aligning with central rules. The court also permitted the inclusion of the Centre in the proceedings, seeking its assistance in addressing this matter.

Furthermore, the court directed expedited consideration of the petitioner's application for special leave, pending the submission of the state committee's report by July 31.

23 Apr 2024