National Highways Authority of India Versus National Commission for Women and Others
Court / Forum : Delhi High Court
Citation : W.P. (C) 12064/2019 and CM No. 49384/2019; MANU/DE/0283/2020
Coram : Justice Naveen Chawla
Subject : Section 10 of the National Commission for Women Act, 1990
Date of Decision : 2020-01-21
- Respondent no. 2 had been appointed on a contractual basis for 2 years and the said contract provided for dispute resolution through arbitration.
- The Respondent no. 2 was aggrieved from the fact that the Petitioner had not provided her with maternity benefit and accordingly, a complaint was filed by the Respondent no. 2 before the National Commission for Women (“Commission”). The Commission had directed the Petitioner vide order dated September 2, 2019 to pay all the dues including the maternity benefits as per the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 to the Respondent no. 2 and vide order dated October 11, 2019, the Commission directed the Petitioner to appear with a detailed Action Taken Report.
- The Petitioner being aggrieved by the said orders had filed the present petition to challenge the said orders.
- Whether an arbitration agreement would oust the jurisdiction of the Commission under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 (“NCW Act”)?
- Whether the Respondent no. 2 who has been appointed on a contractual basis would be entitled to provisions of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961?
- With respect to first issue, Section 10 of the NCW Act provides for functions of the Commission. Under section 10(1)(a) of the NCW Act, a duty is casted on the Commission to investigate and examine all matters related to safeguards provided to the women under the Constitution and other laws. Under section 10(1)(e) of the NCW Act, the Commission has the duty to take up cases of violation of provisions of Constitution and of other laws relating to women with appropriate authority. Also, under section 10(1)(f) of the NCW Act, the Commission can look into complaints and take suo moto notice of matters relating to and including deprivation of women's right, non-implementation of laws enacted to provide protection to women and also to achieve the objective of equality and development and take up the issues arising out of such matters with appropriate authorities.
- Therefore, the remedy before the Commission is of an alternative nature and mere presence of arbitration clause in the employment agreement would not oust the jurisdiction of the Commission. Arbitration would only be an optional remedy in the present case.
- With respect to second issue, the Hon`ble Court referred to clause 12 of the contract, which clearly provided that the Petitioner has to comply with the provisions of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. Therefore, the Petitioner could not contend that the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 would not apply in the present case.
- Also, the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 is a social legislation which has been enacted to safeguard the employment of women in certain establishments for a certain period before and after the birth of child and to provide for maternity benefit and certain other benefits. The Hon`ble Court also relied on the case of Government of NCT of Delhi & Ors. v. Shweta Tripathi & Anr., wherein this Hon`ble Court has held that the employer could not have discriminated between two female employees for applying the benefits of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, as one is a contractual employee and other is a permanent employee. A classification which provides that a contractual employee would be entitled to lesser extent of pay and a permanent employee would be entitled for better terms is not a reasonable classification considering the object of the rule is to grant maternity benefit. Therefore, even if, the Respondent no. 2 is a contractual employee, she is entitled to the benefits of Maternity Benefits Act, 1961.
Vipul Ganda is a Delhi based Advocate practicing largely at the Delhi High Court. His practice focus is Dispute Resolution and Litigation and his practice areas include Arbitration, Commercial, Civil, Constitutional, Corporate and Criminal Litigation.