Plea of Maternity leave for PG and UG Courses- India

June 9, 2023
Right to Reproductive Autonomy

By Anuradha Gandhi and Rachita Thakur


The Constitution of India guarantees its citizen the right to be treated equally, irrespective of their gender, race, religion or caste. The Constitution envisages an egalitarian society where citizens would exercise their rights, and the society as well as the State would allow the manifestation of their rights.

One such aspect of exercising the right to dignity was considered by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in a recent case of, University Grants Commission v. Chaudhary Charan Singh University, wherein a woman filed a plea seeking direction on University Grants Commission to frame rules and regulations for grant of maternity leave for post-graduate and under-graduate courses.

While deciding the case, the Court observed:

“A man could then well enjoy parenthood while pursuing his higher education, whereas a woman necessarily has to undergo pre and post pregnancy care. It is not her choice, but the will of nature. What is, however, left for us to decide is the consequence we would impose upon a woman who bears a child.”

What led to the filing of the plea?

The petitioner, enrolled in the Chaudhary Charan Singh University (hereinafter referred to as “the University”) for pursuing two years M.Ed regular course and filed for maternity leave before the concerned Dean and the Vice – Chancellor of the University and the same was rejected.

The petitioner then approached the High Court of Delhi praying for directions allowing her benefit of maternity leave and grant her relaxation of attendance for completing Master of Education (M.Ed) course.

The Petitioner laid emphasis on the circular issued by the University Grants Commission, UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure Award of M.Phil./Ph.D Degrees) Regulations, 2016 (hereinafter ‘UGC Regulations, 2016’) providing for women candidates to avail maternity leave/child care leave (‘CCL’) once in the entire duration of M.Phil/Ph.D course for up to 240 days.

Court’s Considerations

The Court took note of the UGC Regulations and based its observations on the fact that the course pursued by the petitioner is governed by the provisions of National Council for Teacher Education Act 1993 (hereinafter referred to as the “NCTE Act”) and not the UGC Regulations. Therefore, the question before the court was to determine whether, in the absence of any specific provisions for maternity leave, the same can be directed to be favourably considered by the University.

While dealing with the question of law, the court referred to Entry 26 of List III of the Constitution and Article 42 of the Constitution that reads as follows:

26. Welfare of labour including conditions of work, provident funds, employers, liability, workmen’s compensation, invalidity and old age pensions and maternity benefits.”

“42. Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.—The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.”

The court then stepped up to refer to precedents set relating to the reproductive rights of women thereby bringing them under the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution.

  • Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Admn.,

The Supreme Court in the present case held that the reproductive choices are inherent to a woman’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity which in turn are encompassed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It was further observed that the crucial consideration is that a woman’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity should be respected and in no manner any restriction should be placed on the exercise of reproductive choices of a woman.

  • The court further referred to the landmark judgment on the rights of workmen in the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, wherein the Supreme Court held that it is the right of workers, men and women to have access to facilities for children to develop in healthy manner and conditions of freedom of dignity and just and human conditions for work and maternity relief.

The Hon’ble High Court made several references to the intent of the Constitution to provide the citizens with the opportunity to exercise their rights and the duty of the society to allow the manifestation of such rights. The Court thus, held that the citizens would thus, not be forced to choose between their right to education and their right to exercise reproductive autonomy.

Furthermore, the observations of the Hon’ble High Court were to create an inclusive path for women by not hindering their educational prospects because of the necessity to undergo the pre and post pregnancy care which is not a choice but a will of nature.


It was further iterated that there exist two roads, that is, either to follow the existing legal procedure blindly and tread as is in the current scenario or be sensitive to the person in dispute and apply the values imbibed in the Constitution and accommodate for the law falling short of societal development.

By choosing the second path laid down above, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi allowed the petitioner a leave of 59 days under the ‘theory classes’ on the condition that the petitioner shall also fulfill 80% attendance criteria in the theory classes and issued the said directions to the University.


The judgement comes as progressive step ahead to eliminate stereotypes related to women and allowing them relaxations in fulfilling their educational, professional lives thereby striking balance with their personal lives is an integral element to ensure gender sensitivity. Gender sensitivity is a path towards upholding the freedom of right to life and liberty.

  1. W.P. (C)3559/2023
  2. (2009) 9 SCC 1
  3. (1984) 3 SCC 161

Related Articles:

Unveiling the Veil of Dignity

Supreme Court issues Guidelines to Bridge the Lacuna in POSH Implementation

For more information please contact us at :