The Bombay High Court has just wreaked havoc on yet another anti-women rule that the Government of India has been harbouring for decades - discrimination against women.

Holding that the role of a daughter in supporting her family did not change after marriage, the Bombay High Court has described as "unfair labour practice" a 1994 Maharashtra Government rule which allowed only unmarried daughters to be eligible for employment on compassionate ground in the case of her parent's premature retirement.

"It is impossible to accept in this day and age that assuming a woman gets married she will cut off her ties with the family she is born in and will leave it to suffer the vagaries of life in penury," Justice Nishita Mhatre observed in a significant judgement delivered last week.

The court was hearing an appeal filed by Maharashtra Government against an order of Industrial court which termed as illegal the termination of Medha Parke, a Pune resident, who had secured employment in keeping with the Government policy framed under Maharashtra Civil Services (pension) Rules after her father retired prematurely on medical ground.

"In my opinion, the rule which discriminates against women is arbitrary and, therefore, it cannot be said that the termination of service of Parke was legal. An unfair labour practise has been established," Justice Mhatre observed.

"It is necessary for the Government in this case to establish on evidence that Parke, after having secured employment, was no longer connected with the family that she was born into and that the family was living without her financial support," the judge opined.

"The State has instead chosen to dismiss Parke without holding an enquiry and thereby committed an unfair labour practise," the judge said in the order.

One of the eligibility criteria for applying for appointment on compassionate grounds is that the daughter must be unmarried. The respondent was unmarried when she applied for the post. She was selected as she fulfilled all the other criteria for appointment. Her name was included in wait-list and she was issued an appointment order three years later.

"The petitioner cannot expect the life of respondent (Parke) to come to a grinding halt only because her name was included in wait list. The unreasonableness and arbitrariness of the petitioner is writ large," Justice Mhatre observed.

The judge asked, "Does the respondent have to let life pass her by only because her name was included in wait list? The answer must be emphatically in the negative. To suggest that because Parke had not waited long enough to get married, she had committed a fraud, smacks of unfair labour practise.

"In my opinion, the order of Industrial Court is correct and need not be disturbed. Industrial Court has also rightly awarded the backwages. Parke's services were terminated on December 21, 2005. The complaint was filed on January 31, 2006, after a month and 10 days of her termination from service. It is difficult to believe that a person will be able to get job within a month from the date of her dismissal."

"Merely, because the complainant has not stated that she is unemployed it would not mean that she is not entitled to backwages. The Industrial Court has, therefore, rightly granted her backwages," the court held.

In 1994, the Government had framed a policy under the Maharashtra Civil Services (pension) Rules which provides that a husband/wife, son or unmarried daughter or legally adopted son or unmarried daughter are eligible for being appointed on compassionate grounds in place of a deceased or a prematurely retired Government employee.

Accordingly, Parke had applied for the job after her father retired prematurely.
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