A breakthrough judgment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court calls for a big applause as they clear the air in the employment process for women in the Army Medical Corps (AMC) including that for pregnant women. “It is against the weight of the judicial precedents from major jurisdictions across the globe interpreting laws prohibiting gender discrimination. Most of all, by forcing a choice between bearing a child and employment, it interferes both, with her reproductive rights and her right to employment. Such an action can have no place in modern India,” the High Court said as reported by Hindustan Times.
It is every woman’s right to work in every field allowed to her by the constitution of India and pregnancy should not be a parameter for recruiting them. This decision came after a woman who had registered for a Short Service Commission in AMC could not resume her services one year later as she conceived a baby. This enraged her and she filed a case against AMC’s order to cancel her appointment deeming her unfit to join.
The female doctor, Neetu Bala, had applied for the job in 2013 following which, the officials asked her to go through the selection process including the interview and medical examinations. She cleared all of that and in her medical test, her seven-month old pregnancy came into view, this was in 2014. Immediately after that her appointment was cancelled without any further assistance given to her. Bala even inquired if her seat could be reserved so she could join after the delivery but the authorities remained unavailable to her.
While fighting for the case, Bala’s attorney raised the question of justice in her non-appointment solely on the fact of her pregnancy. The court then referred to Article 14 and 16 of the Indian Penal Code which confirmed that a married woman can neither be disqualified from a position in the case of her pregnancy nor can her appointment be held back.
In the matter of uniformed services, the High Court in a 36-page judgement also mentioned that the government could permit maternity leave or reserve position until delivery. Bala has already delivered her baby in April last year and now the ruling has also directed the AMC authorities to offer the appointment letter to her in one month for her to join the paramilitary forces.
Picture Credit- Gender Society