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Annwesha Deb was appointed as a Legal Services Advocate in Juvenile Justice Board Sewa Kutir, Kingsway Camp, New Delhi. She was employed there on a daily wages for Rs.1,750 in the year of 2016. On due course of her employment she was found pregnant and thud she applied for maternity leave for seven months. Subsequently she so applied for grant of Maternity Benefits. Later, the Authority rejected her application. Aggrieved by the rejection of application by the Authority, Annwesha Deb approached a Single Judge Court. It was held in the Lower Court that Annwesha Deb is entitled for the Maternity Benefits. 

Delhi Legal Services Authority filled an appeal before the Delhi High Court to review the Judgment of the Lower Court. Both the parties submitted their arguments.

 Respondent Annwesha Deb’s contention was that under Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 she is entitled to be provided with Maternity Benefits as she is a woman employed under the definition provided in Section 3 (n). It was also kept from the Respondent side that she continued working till 7th month of her pregnancy and also that despite of being contractually employed for a tenure of 3 years, she was denied to be paid Maternity Benefits.

Petitioner’s submitted that Delhi Legal Services Authority has empanelled Advocates and does not have the wherewithal to pay Maternity Benefits to every empanelled Woman Advocate. Siting to various cases, it was also provided that the service of an Advocate could never turn from professional engagement to that of an employee. It was also argued that the interpretation of a social welfare legislation should not be one which results in patently unanticipated or absurd resulted which is plainly not in the contemplation of the legislature.

Justice V. Kameswar Rao and Justice Saurabh Banerjee on considering to both the side parties submission, concluded that the interpretation of the word ‘Employment’ and ‘Wages’ in the Act of 1961 by the learned Single Judge leading to his conclusion if allowed would lead to give Maternity Benefits to each of those who are engaged professionally. The interpretation is misplaced in law and would have serious repercussion. Judges held that there cannot be a comparison between an Advocate who continues to act as such and an employee who is appointed as per the Recruitment Rules of the Authority, thus the claim by respondent is not permissible.

Reference : Delhi State Legal Services Authority v. Annwesha Deb.  LPA 701/2023

Name : GOPIKA PR, Second Year of B.A.,L.L.B, The Central Law College, Intern from Legal Vidhiya in Legal Journalism 

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