In a recent ruling by The Madras High Court it has adjourned that in case a working woman is to give birth to a child in her second delivery, having delivered twins during the first delivery, the said woman shall not be entitled to receive any maternity benefits as were accrued to her during her first delivery under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961.
The said judgment can be quoted stating that "As per existing rules, a woman can avail such benefits only for her first two deliveries. Even otherwise it is debatable as to whether the delivery is not a second delivery but a third one, in as much as ordinarily when twins are born they are delivered one after another, and their age and their inter-se elderly status is also determined by virtue of the gap of time between their arrivals, which amounts to two deliveries and not one simultaneous act,". This was the ruling passed ultimately by the Madras High Court. The first bench, comprised of Chief Justice A P Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad and it gave the above judgment while allowing the appeal from Ministry of Home Affairs.
This judgment clearly sets aside the order given by a single Judge on the 18th of June, 2019 wherein the judge extended 180 days of maternity leave along with all other benefits permitted under the Act to a woman member of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) under the rules governing the Tamil Nadu government servants, clearly in contrast to the present ruling by the Madras High Court.
The above issue pertains to an appeal moved by the ministry, wherein it was contended that the leave claim is by a member of CISF to whom the maternity rules of Tamil Nadu would not apply at all since the said woman will be liable to be covered under the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules, as per the ministry.
Further, when the appeal was brought for hearing, the bench concluded that it found that the second delivery, which, under the circumstances resulted in a third child, must not be misconstrued or misinterpreted so as to comply with the mathematical precision which has been provided under the act, pertaining to it applicability after a second child.
The bench explained that the admissibility of the benefits given under the Act, shall remain limited in case the claimant has not more than two children. The bench was further quoted as saying that "This fact therefore changes the entire nature of the relief which is sought for by the woman petitioner, which aspect has been completely overlooked by the single judge", clearly setting aside the judgment given prior to this by said Single Judge.
Under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, in order for a woman employee to be eligible to avail a maternity leave, she should have completed at least 80 days of working in the organization where she is seeking the benefits. Further, the Maternity (Amendment) Bill 2017 has extended the earlier period of 12 weeks’ leave to 26 weeks now. This duration can be bifurcated for the pre as well as post-pregnancy period, whereby eight weeks of the leave can be availed prior to giving birth. There even exists a provision for the mothers who have adopted a child, wherein they can avail off a leave for a period of 12 weeks. As far as the women working under the Government are concerned, the maternity leaves are provided as paid leave of 180 days for the first two children only.
Primary Points of Focus:
The Madras High Court has ruled that “As per existing rules, a woman can avail such benefits only for her first two deliveries. Even otherwise it is debatable as to whether the delivery is not a second delivery but a third one, inasmuch as ordinarily when twins are born they are delivered one after another, and their age and their inter-se elderly status is also determined by virtue of the gap of time between their arrivals, which amounts to two deliveries and not one simultaneous act,”. This implies that while the woman delivers twins in one delivery, it occurs simultaneously and the duration of pregnancy also remains to be 9 months, changing nothing as far as the rules are concerned. Thus if a woman births twins then she shall be deemed to have delivered twice and thereby having two children. Any pregnancy after such delivery of twins can only amount to a third delivery and thus, shall not be considered for the given benefits under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. Furthermore, according to the rules given under the Act, it is also important for the woman employee to have completed a minimum of 80 working days in the specified organization for seeking the benefits and being for maternity leave.