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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why refuse maternity leave in surrogacy birth? Bombay high court asks

MUMBAI: A 35-year-old Central Railway (CR) employee who had newborn twins through surrogacy last year, has approached the Bombay high court to challenge the refusal of maternity leave by her employer. Accepting that the issue is important and needs to heard, a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice A R Joshi on Tuesday issued notices to the Central Railway and the Centre to respond to the petition and explain its stance within four weeks. "This is a deserving case," observed the bench.

"The rationale behind granting maternity leave is not just for the mother to recuperate after delivery, but also give her time to bond with the child," said the petitioner's advocate Sandeep Shinde. "Even rules concerning adoption have a provision allowing parents to avail maternity and paternity leave after they adopt a child. The railway's refusal in cases of surrogacy births, therefore, is not justified."

Sheela Chablani (name changed) had opted for surrogacy to deliver her biological children. The twins were born in February 2014. She approached CR seeking maternity leave to take care of her children. But the railway authorities rejected her application saying there was no provision of maternity leave in the service rules for women who have had children through surrogacy. She then applied for child care leave. The CR allowed it, but placed a condition that if the railway board does not approve the leave, it would be considered as leave without pay. She has been on child care leave since last February. As the board has not yet approved the leave, she moved the HC and questioned the discriminatory and arbitrary stand of the railways.

In her petition Sheela claimed that the railways' stand was irrational and violated her rights. "The railways' decision to confine maternity leave only to a mother who has delivered a child is discriminatory," said Shinde. The petition cited a Madras high court judgment, where the port trust was directed to grant maternity leave to a woman employee who had had a child through surrogacy.


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