According to the Delhi High Court, women cannot be compelled to choose between their right to education and reproductive autonomy

Title: RENUKA v. University Grants Commission and Anr. W.P.(C) 3559/2023

Petitioner represented by Advocate Bhawanshu Sharma

Date of Decision: 23.05.2023

Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav.


The Constitution envisioned an equal society where citizens may enjoy their rights, and both society and the state were to enable them to do so. In the Constitutional plan, no compromise was attempted. Individuals could not be coerced into giving up their rights. In the Constitutional plan, no compromise was attempted. Individuals may not be made to choose between their right to an education and their freedom to reproductive autonomy, according to Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav.

Facts of the Case

The court was considering the woman’s request for two years of regular M.Ed. coursework. She applied for maternity leave with the relevant Dean and Vice-Chancellor of the university, who refused the University Grants Commission’s directive to develop precise norms and regulations for the issuance of parental leave in post-graduate and undergraduate courses.

She began a two-year M.Ed. regular study at Chaudhary Charan Singh College in December 2021. She applied for maternity leave with the relevant Dean and vice president of the university, who denied her request on February 28.

Setting aside the Dean and Vice-Chancellor’s decision, Justice Kaurav ordered the University to reconsider her request for 59 days of parental leave against the theory of classes.

“If the petitioner meets the requirement of 80% attendance criteria in theory courses, after allowing for the 59 days of parental leave, let the respondent no.2-University take the necessary actions to allow the petitioner to participate in the examination without delay,” the court ordered. 

Courts Analysis and Decision

The Delhi High Court provided relief to a female candidate seeking a relaxation of her participation in finishing a Master of Education (MEd) course after being denied maternity leave, stating that women cannot be compelled to choose between their right to schooling and their right to exercise reproductive autonomy.

According to the court, it has been held in previous judgments that the right of women to take maternity leave at work is an inherent part of the right to live with decency under Article 21 of the Constitution.

“The Constitution of India, as adopted on November 26, 1949, served as an obligation made by Indian citizens to themselves.” A promise to remove oneself from society’s parochial assumptions that impeded the arrival of equality. The people affirmed their entitlement to equal treatment without hesitation. Citizens were to seize their chances regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or caste, according to the court.

“Undoubtedly, in exercising its power under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, this court is unable to establish an additional division for the reason of relaxation of attendance,” it said. The appropriate requirements, which demand a certain number of days of attendance, must also be followed. At the same time, the needs of applicants seeking maternity leave must be considered.”

“The first path would compel a woman to choose among her right to an education and her right to become a mother.” A woman would then have to both re-engage in the activity that she was previously seeking but was interrupted by her pregnancy or accept her inability to do so.

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JudgmentClick here to review the judgement

Written by- Anushka Satwani

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