The Allahabad High Court has once again clarified that the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 does not bar the grant of maternity leave a second time before the completion of two years from the date on which maternity leave granted earlier expires (Preeti Singh v. State of UP and ors).
The Court was dealing with a petition challenging an order rejecting an application for maternity leave on the ground that such leave could not be sought before the expiry of two years from the date on which maternity leave granted earlier came to an end (December 28, 2019, in this case)
The petitioner, however, pointed out that the Allahabad High Court’s earlier ruling in Smt. Richa Shukla v. State of UP supports her case. She contended that the same judgment squarely covers the case at hand.
Justice Saurabh Lavania, in turn, agreed with the petitioer that the Richa Shukla ruling squarely covered this case. The High Court proceeded to quote relevant extracts of the said case, including:
“13. In the instant case, the maternity leave as applied by the petitioner has been rejected by placing reliance on Rule 153(1) of the Financial Handbook by contending that the same contains a restriction that the second maternity leave cannot be granted and would be admissible in case there is difference of less than two years between the end of the first maternity leave and grant of second maternity leave. Admittedly, the first maternity leave of the petitioner ended on 30.12.2017 and thus the respondents have rejected the claim of the petitioner for grant of second maternity leave. However, once 1961 Act does not contain any such stipulation accordingly it is apparent that the respondents have patently erred in placing reliance on Rule 153(1) of the Financial Handbook in rejecting the application of the petitioner for grant of maternity leave more particularly when Section 27 of 1961 Act provides that it is 1961 Act which would be applicable notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law or contract of service.”
In view of this position, the High Court allowed the petition while quashing the challenged order whereby the petitioner’s leave request was rejected.
The respondents were directed to consider the case of the petitioner for grant of maternity leave, taking into consideration the observations made in the Richa Shukla case within ten days from the date of receipt of the order.