Supreme Court Notice To Centre On Plea Challenging Validity Of Provision Of Maternity Benefit Act

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The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Centre on a plea challenging the Constitutional validity of a provision of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 which states that a woman would be eligible for maternity leave who legally adopts a child below the age of three months.

A bench of Justices SA Nazeer and Krishna Murari issued notices to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Women & Child Development while seeking their responses on the PIL which said Section 5(4) of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was discriminatory and arbitrary.

A woman who legally adopts a child below the age of three months or a commissioning mother shall be entitled to maternity benefit for a period of twelve weeks from the date the child is handed over to the adopting mother or the commissioning mother, as the case may be.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea filed by Karnataka resident Hamsaanandini Nanduri challenging the constitutional validity of Section 5(4) of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
“Section 5(4) apart from being discriminatory and arbitrary towards the adoptive mothers, also arbitrarily discriminates against orphaned, abandoned or surrendered children above the age of three months, which is completely incompatible to the object of the Maternity Benefit Act as well as the Juvenile Justice Act,” the plea said.

The petition stated that the purported 12 weeks of maternity benefit to adoptive mothers is not only a “mere lip service but when juxtaposed with the maternity benefit of 26 weeks provided to biological mothers, fails to stand even the basic scrutiny of Part III of the Constitution which is wedded to the concept of non-arbitrariness.”

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