The Madras High Court has ruled in favour of the woman, who was eight weeks pregnant when she failed a TN police recruitment exercise.
New Delhi: A pregnant woman who missed the timing target for a Tamil Nadu police recruitment physical test by half a second is now set for appointment in the force, despite having failed the exam.
The Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu Uniformed Recruitment Board (TNURB), which recruits personnel for police and other uniformed services in the state, to approve R. Devika’s application, saying her participation itself was a “sign of courage”.
R. Devika had participated in the Grade II Police Constable/Grade-II Jail Warden recruitment exercise last year.
According to Devika, she was eight weeks pregnant on the day the physical fitness test was conducted. Required to run 100 metres within 17.50 seconds, Devika missed the target by 0.30 seconds, causing her to fail the exam.
However, she took the matter to the Madras High Court, saying she had failed to complete the task because of her pregnancy.
On 7 January, Justice S. Vimala ruled in Devika’s favour, noting that the issue at hand was whether it would be right to decline employment to a pregnant woman on the ground that her physical fitness was not a match for fellow examinees.
“Prescribing the same standards for a pregnant lady along with others, who are not similarly placed, is… unequal treatment,” the high court added.
In the opening lines of the judgment, the judge cited a popular quote meant to drive home the importance of time.
“To realize the value of –
ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade
ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a
ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper
ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet
ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the trophy
ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident
And HALF A SECOND, ask the petitioner, who missed the post of
Grade II Constable,” Justice Vimala noted.
By the Constitution
The judge added that apart from pregnancy, menstruation may also prove a problem for women appearing for a physical fitness test.
“There is express provision in the Constitution of India that women shall be given special treatment in the matter of employment in order to eliminate socio-economic backwardness and to empower them in a manner that would bring about effective equality between men and women,” the judge noted in her order.
Directing the state authorities to approve Devika’s application, the high court ordered that the intensive physical training she was required to undertake be postponed until her maternity leave was over.
“The concessions given to pregnant women shall not be construed as a concession towards personal comfort of the women,” the court said.
“The childbirth should be considered as a contribution to continuity of generations, without which the existence of the world is impossible,” it added.
The high court also ordered the TNURB to take constitutional provisions and international conventions on maternity rights into account before issuing the next notification.
The board was also directed to “frame guidelines by providing the best possible measures to support women candidates who are at difficult circumstances on account of pregnancy or maternity or other natural causes”.