The Supreme Court noted that “family relationships may take the form of families, unmarried partners, or queer relationships,” while noting that “atypical” manifestations of the family unit are as real as their traditional counterparts and should be protected by law.
The main legal and social understanding of the concept of “family” is that “it consists of a single, unchanging unit, with mother and father (remaining constant over time) and their children.
“This assumption ignores the many circumstances that may lead to changes in one’s family structure, and the fact that many families do not meet this expectation in the first place. Family relationships may take the form of families, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships”, Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna said in the order uploaded on Sunday.
The observations are significant because after the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in 2018, activists have been raising the issue of recognizing LGBT marriages and civil unions and allowing cohabiting couples to adopt.
The Supreme Court made the above remarks in its judgment, arguing that the mere fact that a working woman’s husband had two children from a previous marriage and she used the leave to care for one child should not deprive her of the right to take maternity leave for her biological child. statutory rights. in.
A family can become single-parent for a number of reasons, including the death of a spouse, separation or divorce, the judge said.
“Similarly, guardians and caretakers of children (traditionally playing the roles of ‘mother’ and ‘father’) may change with remarriage, adoption or foster care,” it said.
It said that these manifestations of love and family may not be typical, but they are as real as their traditional counterparts, and that such atypical manifestations of the family unit should be protected not only by law, but also by social welfare legislation. . .
“For disadvantaged families, as opposed to traditional families, the black letter of the law must not be relied upon. No doubt the same is true for women who assume the role of mother in a way that may not find a place in the popular imagination.” Made on behalf of the judge Justice Chandrachud said in the ruling.
The judge said the purpose and intent of granting maternity leave would be completely negated unless a purposive interpretation was used in the case.
“The purpose of granting maternity leave under the 1972 rule is to promote the continued presence of women in the workplace. The harsh reality is that with such a provision many women would be socially compelled to give up their childbearing jobs if they did not Get furloughs and other amenities,” it said.
It added that no employer can view childbirth as detrimental to the purpose of employment, and childbirth must be interpreted as a natural event in life in the context of employment, and therefore, provisions for maternity leave must be interpreted in this light.
It said that the facts of the case showed that the previous marriage of the appellant’s spouse (a professional nurse) ended with the death of his wife, after which she married him.
“The fact that the appellant’s spouse had two biological children in the first marriage does not affect the appellant’s entitlement to maternity leave for his only biological child.
“The fact that she was granted parental leave may have been her spouse’s two biological children from an early marriage may be a compassionate view taken by the authorities at the relevant time,” it said.
The judge said gender roles and social expectations assigned to women meant women were always forced to take on a disproportionate burden of childcare.
It refers to a “time use” survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and states that Indian women currently spend up to 352 minutes a day in unpaid work, 577% more time than men and Time at unpaid work includes childcare.
“In this context, it is essential for the state and other employers to support care work through benefits such as maternity, paternity or parental leave (provided by both parents).
“While certain provisions of the 1972 Rules allow women to enter the paid labour force, women continue to have primary responsibility for childcare. The granting of parental leave to the appellant cannot be used to deprive the appellant of her right to maternity leave under section 43 of the 1972 Rules,” it said. .
The Supreme Court said the facts of the case also showed that the appellant’s family structure changed when she was the parent of her spouse’s biological child from a previous marriage.
“When an appellant applies to PGIMER for maternity leave, PGIMER is faced with facts that may not have been envisaged or adequately explained by the law. When a court encounters such a situation, they are better off trying to achieve the purpose of the maternity leave. The law in question, rather than preventing its application ”, the judge said and set aside the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Courts.
(Apart from the title, this story was unedited by NDTV staff and was posted from a syndicated feed.)