PERIOD LEAVE: IS IT AGAINST RIGHT TO EQUALITY?
Period is something that is still a taboo in our society. This topic is untouched to be discussed in public, but why is it so? It is because women themselves refrain themselves from discussing about it. Period, scientifically known as menstruation is a natural process that occurs every month in a woman’s body and there is definitely nothing to be ashamed of; all of this is just easy to pen down in words, but in practicality, in India, till date this topic is not heavily discussed about.
One step ahead was taken by Zomato – an Indian restaurant aggregator and food delivery start-up when they announced another category of ‘leave’ called the ‘period leave’ wherein a woman can rightfully avail up to 10 leaves in a year. This attracted a lot of feedbacks, some good some bad, on the internet. There were some people welcoming this move, and some being against it.
Let us examine how this step taken by them is not against the Right to Equality under the Indian Constitution, as this is the common reason for which this move is not appreciated by many.
RIGHT TO EQUALITY- ARTICLE 14 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION
This means that every person, who lives within territory of India, has the equal right before the law. the meaning of this all are equal in same line. No discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth. its mean that all will be treated as equality among equal and there will be no discrimination based on lower or higher class. Article 14 reads as under: The State shall not deny to any person Equality before the law or the equal protection oflaws within the territory of India. Article 14 does not mean that all laws must be uniform and must universally be applicable. It only prohibits improper and individual distinctions created by conferring Rights or privileges upon a particular group to the exclusion of other group without any valid reason. Equal protection of the laws must mean the protection of equal laws for all persons similarly situated. This principle has been reiterated by the Supreme Court in M.G. Badappanavar v. State of Karnataka AIR 2001 SC 260 case in the following words “Equality is a basic feature of the Constitution of India and any treatment of equals unequally or unequal as equal will be violation of the basic structure of the Constitution of India.”
The decision have established certain important principles which further elucidate the scope of permissible classification. These may be stated as: (a) A law may be constitutional even though it relates to a single individual if, on account of some special circumstances, or reasons applicable to him and not applicable to others, that single individual may be treated as a class by himself, (b) There is always a presumption in favour of the constitutionally of an enactment and the burden is upon him who attacks it to show that there has been a clear transgression of the Constitutional principles. The person, therefore, who pleads that Article 14 has been violated, must not only has he been so treated differently from others but he has been so treated from persons similarly circumstanced without any reasonable basis and such differential treatment has been unjustifiably made. Moreover, in E.P Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu AIR 1974 SC 555, the Supreme Court challenged the traditional concept of equality which was based on reasonable classification and has laid down that "equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be cribbed, cabined and confined with in traditional doctrinaire limits.
Thus, at this juncture we have to look at the other provisions that have to be read along with Article 14 and cannot be termed as a contravention. Article 14 is a general provision and has to be read subject to the other provisions included within the Part on Fundamental Rights.
Article 15 (3) gives the power to make special provisions for women and children in order to protect them from the controls of formal equality. One may wonder that this legislation is carte blanche (complete freedom to act as one wishes) to impose differential benefits and supposedly to the advantage of women at the cost of burdening men, but it is justified as it recompenses for early injustice met by women and children at the hands of a male-dominated society. Right to free and compulsory education for children under the age of 14 years, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017, Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act etc. are some of the best examples of such provisions. Hence, any law-making special provision for women (or children) under Art. 15 (3) cannot be challenged on the ground of contravention of Art. 14 as also held by the Supreme Court in Yusuf Abdul Aziz v. State of Bombay AIR 1954 SC 321.
Thus, as per me, the period leave initiative is definitely not violating the constitutional provisions. Certain aspects cannot be looked at an equality perspective, but with the vision on change and development in the sector if welfare for women. This leave can be availed by women who genuinely need it and in return their respect and contribution to the workplace will also be better which will ensure efficiency in the workplace. This move is welcomed by me and many other women who have faced such problems in general and we hope that this is continued by other organizations as well as a part of their welfare initiatives for the women, it will not only give them a sense of relief but also would encourage other women to work better.
Author: Natasha K,
CMR University, School of Legal Studies