The Union Ministry of Defence has been dragged to the Bombay High Court by one of its officers after the ministry issued transfer orders in the eighth month of her pregnancy.
An army major, Leena Gurav (36), approached the HC on Saturday seeking deferment of her transfer from Mumbai to Lucknow. The Union Ministry of Defence had issued the transfer orders despite Gurav's application requesting for deferment till March 2008 in view of her pregnancy.
Gurav had started her career with the Indian Army in 1996 as an officer of the Judge Advocate General's department. In March 2004 she was deputed as the Officer-in-charge of the legal cell of the headquarters of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa.
Later in 2006, she married Yogesh Pawaskar, manager in the Shamrao Vithal Co-operative Bank in Goa. The husband and wife lived apart due to their individual professional commitment. She conceived her first child at the age of 36 early this year.
Due to her pregnancy, Gurav was downgraded in the medical category that held her unfit to work in high altitude areas and places that have sub-zero temperature.
In March this year, Gurav made an application to the Military Secretary's Branch (MSB) in Delhi requesting extension of her tenure in Mumbai till March 2008 on compassionate grounds. However, the MSB refused her application. Normal tenure of officers of Gurav's rank is two to three years, which she has already exhausted, reasoned MSB while turning down her application.
On May 24, the MSB issued order transferring her to the Headquarters Central Command, Lucknow. Earlier in April, Gurav was temporarily deputed to Pune to conduct summary general court martial as the judge advocate.
On her return, she once again applied for deferment of her transfer, which was turned down. This time, the MSB reasoned that if her transfer was procrastinated it would delay the posting of three other officers.
Aggrieved, she filed a writ petition in the HC contending that transferring her at the advance stage of pregnancy was violative of Article 39 (just and humane conditions of work) and Article 42 (maternity relief) of the Constitution of India.
Her counsel Rajiv Chavan said that at the age of 36 this was probably her first and only pregnancy. "She will in any case have to return to Mumbai for delivery in September as her parents live here", he added.
The petition urges the court to direct the MSB to postpone her posting stating that the employer must be considerate and sympathetic towards her duties at work place while she is pregnant.
The division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Ranjana Desai will hear the matter on August 7.