Women's Workforce Participation is Constitutional Entitlement, Not Privilege: Supreme Court

Supreme Court asserts women's workforce rights in Shalini Dharmani v. State of Himachal Pradesh, highlighting constitutional entitlement over privilege.

The Supreme Court has directed the Himachal Pradesh government to form a committee chaired by the Chief Secretary to examine the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 regarding mothers raising children with special needs. This decision came in response to an appeal filed by Shalini Dharmani, an Assistant Professor with a son suffering from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare genetic disorder.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala emphasized that women's participation in the workforce is not a privilege but a constitutional right. They noted that while the Union Government allows Child Care Leave for women with differently-abled children up to twenty-two years, Himachal Pradesh hasn't adopted these provisions.

Despite Dharmani's efforts, the High Court dismissed her plea, citing the state's deletion of the provision for Child Care Leave. The Supreme Court recognized the importance of Child Care Leave in ensuring women's workforce participation and directed the state to reconsider this matter.

A committee, chaired by the Chief Secretary, will include the State Commissioner appointed under the RPWD Act, Secretaries of Women and Child Development, and Social Welfare Departments. It will engage with Union Government officials and submit a report by July 31, 2024.

Pending further orders, Dharmani's application for special leave under Rule 32 of the CCS (Leave) Rules will be considered favorably. The Court scheduled the next hearing for August 5.