The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the matter of Manisha Priyadarsini vs Aurobindo College-Evening and others has categorically enunciated that extension of tenure cannot be rejected on the ground of pregnancy.
In the present case, the appellant was an ad-hoc assistant professor in different colleges of the University and had requested the College for maternity leave along with other benefits under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 on account of her pregnancy. Since there was no reply, she made a second request and received an obscure communication from the College stating that the College had not forced her to join duty and also asked her to intimate them with the joining date. However, when the appellant resumed her duty on 24.05.2019, she was informed that her tenure had expired and was no longer on the rolls of the College. She was also credited with only 18 days of her salary. Aggrieved by this action, the appellant filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court praying for the grant of maternity leave and for quashing the notification which granted the benefits only for permanent teachers but the same was dismissed.
The appellant further on an appeal contended that she was the senior-most ad-hoc assistant professor in the College but her tenure was terminated without any proper grounds and in addition to that, junior ad-doc assistant professors were given an extension for the same academic year. Appellant also argued that it was because of the vengeance borne by the College that she had asked for maternity leave, her tenure was not extended. The College argued that an ad-hoc teacher was not entitled to any maternity benefits as the rules didn’t permit it and her tenure cannot be extended based on the contention that she was still on the rolls of the college during her leave.
The Court observed that there was no good reason for the College to have refused to extend her tenure and it was purely whimsical and arbitrary to have terminated her contract when there was a need for an ad-hoc assistant professor. It also observed that this arbitrary decision of the College was not only penalizing a woman’s decision to become a mother but pushed her to a hapless situation. The Court also found the College’s decision to be violative of her equality under Article 14, 16 and the protection assured under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Thus, the Court allowing the appeal, set aside the impugned judgment and quashed the termination order. Further, the Court directed respondent nos. 1 & 2 (“Aurobindo College and the Univesrity) to appoint the appellant to the post of Assistant professor on an ad-hoc basis till the vacancy is filled up through regular appointment. The Court also imposed a cost of Rs. 50,000/- on the Collge to be paid within 4 weeks.
It is indeed remarkable that the judgment of Delhi high court, in this case, brings home a cardinal principle that a judgment cannot be simply on the grounds of facts of law but it should also take human factors into consideration and be fair and just.