Contractual Employees Whose Contract Ended During Pregnancy Entitled To Maternity Benefits

Factual Background

The present matter is a writ petition filed by the aggrieved petitioner who was denied maternity benefits that are guaranteed to pregnant female workers by the Maternity Benefit Act. Brief facts of the case are that the petitioner was appointed as a stenographer on 7thFebruary 2013 on a contractual basis. Thereafter each year, her contract was renewed periodically. On 28thFebruary 2018, the petitioner submitted a letter to the respondent no. 3 seeking maternity leave for a period of 180 days with effect from 1st March 2018 to 31st August 2018 and thereafter went on maternity leave on 1stMarch 2018. Subsequently, the petitioner came back from maternity leave. When she tried to join back on 28thAugust 2018, to the utter shock and surprise of the petitioner, the respondent no. 3 did not allow the petitioner to resume her work and duties due to the reason that the petitioner’s contract had not been extended after the expiration of the contract period on 31stMarch 2018. Nevertheless, the petitioner was allowed to join vide an appointment letter dated 15thNovember 2018 and the petitioner was appointed on a contractual basis with effect from 8thSeptember 2018 to 30thJune 2019. However, on 17thOctober 2019, the petitioner was informed that her duties were no longer required and she was directed to not come to work from the next day onwards. Needless to say, the petitioner sought clarifications for termination of her services but to no avail. After repeated requests and pestering, the petitioner was informed that proposals for the extension of services of two stenographers were sent to the Finance Department but only one was approved. Aggrieved by the fact that she was not being allowed to join back and was not even given any written communication, the petitioner filed a representation before the chief minister of Delhi on 1st November 2019. It is pertinent to mention that no substantial action has yet been taken. As a result, the petitioner filed the present writ petition.

Arguments On Behalf Of The Petitioner

The Ld. Counsel for the petitioner argued that section 5 of the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 vests a right on every woman employee to receive payment of maternity benefits.

Further, it was argued by the Ld. Counsel for the petitioner that no cogent reasoning whatsoever was given by respondent no. 3 with respect to the directions to the petitioner that her services were no longer required.

It was the contention of the Ld. Counsel for the petitioner that the actions of respondent no. 3 were manifestly arbitrary and unjustified and were violative of the principles of natural justice.

Further, the actions of respondent no. 3 and his failure to provide the petitioner with maternity benefits has resulted in violation of the petitioner’s fundamental rights enshrined under Article 14, Article 15(3), Article 16, Article 19(1)(g) and Article 42 of the Constitution of India.

Arguments On Behalf Of The Respondents

It was the contention of the respondents that the petitioner was a mere contractual employee who had no legal right to claim maternity benefits for her concerned post as a stenographer.

Further, it was argued by the respondents that the terms of the offer letter of the petitioner made it clear that no maternity leave was admissible to her.

Moreover, the petitioner’s contractual period ended during her pregnancy with the efflux of time

It was also contended by the respondents that the petitioner’s impugned termination was not against her appointment prior to her absence from services, but a new contract was entered into upon her fresh application dated 1st September 2018, consequentially a fresh contractual appointment was offered vide an offer letter dated 15th November 2018, with effect from 8th September 2018 to 30th June 2019.


  1. Whether the petitioner was entitled to maternity benefits despite the fact that her contract ended during her pregnancy?
  2. Whether the writ of mandamus may be issued by this Court directing the respondents to allow the petitioner to continue on the post of stenographer on contractual basis and not to replace the petitioner with similarly situated contractual employees?


It is a settled position of law that maternity benefits should be extended equally to all pregnant female workers irrespective of their nature of employment. Time and again the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the various courts across the country have taken a similar view in a plethora of cases.

In the recent case of Dr. Kavita Yadav v. the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Department, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1067, the Apex Court laid emphasis on Section 12(2)(a) of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and expressed that the said provision entitled maternity benefits even to those employees who were dismissed or discharged at any time during their pregnancy if such women, but for such discharge or dismissal, would have been entitled to maternity benefits or medical bonus. The Apex Court went on to opine that continuation of maternity benefits are in-built in the statute itself and therefore would survive and continue despite the cessation of the term of employment.

[Image Sources: Shutterstock]

Matrinity leave

In Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Female Workers (Muster Roll) (2000) 3 SCC 224, according to the Apex Court, the Maternity Benefit Act’s provisions, are entirely consistent with the Directive Principles of State Policy as outlined in Articles 39 and Article 42. When a woman is an employee and far along in her pregnancy, she cannot be forced to work long hours because it would be harmful to both her and the unborn child. This is the reason the Maternity Benefit Act stipulates that she will be eligible for maternity leave for a set amount of time both before and after giving birth. Nothing in the Maternity Benefit Act insinuates that only regular women employees are entitled to maternity benefits and not those female workers who are engaged on casual basis.

In view of this, the Apex Court undoubtedly reached a conclusion that the Maternity Benefit Act is a welfare and social legislation and the intent of the legislature in no manner could have been to limit or restrict the extent and scope of reliefs that may be granted to all those falling within the ambit of the Act. It is a given that passing welfare legislation on its own is insufficient. The State and all individuals covered by the Act are obligated to preserve the integrity, purpose, and provisions of the law in its original language and spirit. The law stands settled in this regard that the nature of employment shall not decide whether a woman employee would be entitled to maternity benefits. Nothing in the wording of the Act or its provisions implies that a pregnant woman who is employed would not be eligible for the maternity benefits simply because of the nature of her employment.

So far as the second issue is concerned, the Apex Court placed reliance on M. Ramanatha Pillai v. State of Kerala, (1973) 2 SCC 650 wherein the Court noted that the abolition of a post was an executive policy decision. The abolishment of a post does not grant its holder the right to continue holding it. It is up to the government to decide on its policy regarding whether the government servant who held the post would be offered any employment under the state after it was abolished.

Further, in Avas Vikas Sansthan v. Engineers Assn., (2006) 4 SCC 132 a similar decision was given by the Apex Court. The court reaffirmed the settled position of law that every sovereign government has the authority to abolish any civil post, and that doing so will not grant the person who held the post the right to re-employment or to occupy the same position.


The Apex Court partly allowed the petition to the extent that the petitioner was entitled to maternity benefits. However, a writ of Mandamus could not be issued for the petitioner’s reinstatement because the writ of mandamus is issued only in cases where there is a vested right. In the present case, the petitioner does not have a vested right of being appointed to the said position which has been abolished. The petitioner was merely appointed on a temporary and contractual basis, which may or may not have been extended by respondent no. 3, depending on its discretion, as the petitioner was an employee subject to the terms of employment.

AuthorSonakshi Pandey, A Student at Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to or at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.


  1.,the%20ambit%20of%20the%20Act (last visited on 1 November 2023)
  2. Rehmat Fatima v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2023 SCC OnLine Del 6307

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