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Srinagar, Jan 24: High Court of J&K and Ladakh has held that maternity leave up to 180 days cannot be claimed by every woman employee.

Deciding a petition filed by a lady doctor working in SKIMS Soura here, a bench of Justice Muhammad Akram Chowdhary pointed out that the employer has to keep in mind the nature of duties of such employees as well.

The doctor had challenged an order of the tertiary care hospital authority by virtue of which she was granted 45 days maternity leave from December 11 last year to January 24, 2022.

In her plea, the medico had sought the court intervention for grant of her maternity leave up to 180 days instead of 45 days.

The petitioner contended that she was entitled to the maternity leave as a  matter of right  and was seeking direction in keeping with the SRO-353 dated 6 October 2015.

Underscoring that on a plain reading of SRO-353, a woman employee may be granted maternity leave by the competent authority for a period which may extend up to 180 days from the date of its commencement, the court said:  In the considered opinion of this Court, maternity leave up to 180 days, as a matter of right, cannot be claimed by every woman employee and the employer has to keep in mind the nature of duties of such employee as well.

The petitioner, who is a medical doctor by profession, the court said, may be required for essential duties of health care to be provided to the general masses, particularly in this corona pandemic when leaves of all the medicos have been cancelled.

While the court held that the petitioner as a matter of right cannot claim maternity leave period of 180 days as a whole, it said This factor has to be considered by the competent authority while sanctioning such leave.

The Court however asked the competent authority of SKIMS to take a sympathetic view on the case of the lady doctor and consider her plea for further extension of already sanctioned 45 days maternity leave, in case the working of the hospital does not suffer.

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