Supreme Court Upholds Constitutional Duty: Mandates Child Care Leave for Mothers of Children with Disabilities

Mainstream
23-Apr-2024
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In a groundbreaking ruling emphasizing the constitutional imperative of women's equal participation in the workforce, the Supreme Court underscored the significance of Child Care Leave (CCL) for mothers of children with disabilities. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala declared that denying CCL to such mothers would violate the constitutional duty to ensure gender equality in employment.

"Child Care Leave subserves an important Constitutional objective where women are not denied an equal opportunity in the workforce. This may compel a mother to leave the workforce, particularly a mother with a child with special needs," the Court asserted.

The ruling stemmed from a case involving an assistant professor in Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh, who was refused leave to care for her son with genetic disorders, having exhausted her sanctioned leaves. The Court deemed the matter of grave concern and directed the Himachal Pradesh government to revise its CCL policy in alignment with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Acknowledging the policy void in the State, the Court mandated the formation of a committee comprising the State's Chief Secretary, the State Commissioner under the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, and Secretaries of the Women and Child Development Department and the Social Welfare Department. This committee is tasked with engaging with the Central government's Social Welfare Department to prepare a comprehensive report by July 31, 2024.

Furthermore, the Court sought the Central government's response, highlighting the historical context of CCL provisions. Initially introduced in 2010 with an age limit of 22 years for children with disabilities, Rule 43C of the Central Civil Service (Leave) Rules, 1972, governed such leaves. The litigant, an assistant professor, had petitioned the Himachal Pradesh High Court after being denied further leave, prompting the Supreme Court appeal.

The plea, filed through advocate Pragati Neekhra, underscores the broader issue of inclusive workplace policies. Advocates Mohan Lal Sharma, Varinder Sharma, and Shikha Sharma represented the respondent authorities.

The Supreme Court's ruling marks a significant step towards fostering an enabling environment for working mothers, particularly those with children requiring special care.

Author: Anushka Taraniya 

News writer, MIT ADT University