“To punish a woman for becoming a mother is the mother of all ironies,” said the Delhi High Court on Tuesday asking Delhi University (DU) to waive the attendance shortage of two law students who missed classes as they were in advanced stage of their pregnancies.
The university had barred the two students from appearing in their semester-end exams.
Though the landmark ruling pertained just to the DU students, it can be cited as a precedent by all female students placed in identical situation across the country.
The court suggested the Bar Council of India to make rules for women students claiming relaxation on ground of maternity relief so that they are not deprived of appearing in the LLB examinations due to pregnancy.
The court drew strength from the Supreme Court’s April ruling in a case filed by south Indian actress S. Khusboo that “premarital sex is not an offence”.
She had challenged the criminal proceedings against her for comments favouring premarital sex.
Justice Kailash Gambhir said, “The society today is changing at a rapid pace and we must be in tune with the realities and not hold on to archaic social mores. Once such a right, however unpopular, is recognised, it cannot be ruled out that there can be more cases of girl students proceeding on maternity leave when while they are still in college.”
“Motherhood is not a medical condition but a promise. To punish a woman for becoming a mother would surely be the mother of all ironies,” Justice Gambhir added.
The order means that Vandana Kandari gets her LLB degree and Aarti Meena will be promoted to the fifth semester.
After a court order they were allowed to appear in the semester end exams and they cleared it. But their results were kept on hold till the court order on their petitions challenging penalising them for attendance shortage.
The court upheld the argument of R.K. Saini, the lawyer for the students, that the Constitution of India and the Maternity Benefit Act casts upon state to make adequate provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief and the government has a duty to comply with it.