The 9.30pm deadline puts restrictions on the work hours of women as well as their lifestyle.
This was the Bombay high court’s observation on Tuesday while hearing a bunch of petitions challenging legal provisions that restrict the working hours of women.
During the course of arguments on the petitions, the division bench of justice Ranjana Desai and justice RV More expressed displeasure over the restrictions put on working women through a rule framed under the Shops and Establishments Act, 1948.
With reference to a petition filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association challenging the restriction on bar waitresses, the judges asked special government counsel VC Kotwal, “What is wrong if a working women wants to work more to earn more?”
Kotwal replied by saying, “Why work only in liquor bars? Why can’t they work anywhere else?” The judges then commented saying that means that you will put restrictions on their (women’s) work hours as well as their lifestyle. “You would also control where they should work,” justice Desai said.
Kotwal then argued that the restrictions only impose a partial ban on the working of women. The partial ban, according to the senior advocate, was a reasonable restriction that can be validly put on the fundamental rights of citizens.
“It is a legitimate restriction put in view of the concern for safety of women,” Kotwal submitted, asking, “How can an employee seek enforcement of fundamental rights, when the licensee (employer) himself cannot seek enforcement of his fundamental rights?”
He was referring to legal provisions, which allow trading in liquor only to the extent of a valid permit and not because it is a person’s fundamental right to livelihood. Counsel for Womanists Organisation of India, one of the petitioners, Veena Thadani pointed out that the restriction was meaningless.