On Friday, The Kerala High Court observed that a professional woman cannot be denied employment based on her gender and that the job requires working at night. Justice Anu Sivaraman said that protective provisions cannot stand in the way of an eligible woman. The HC set aside an official ban for women in a job notification by Kerala Metals and Minerals Limited (KMML). The court observed that the embargo violated the articles laid down in the Indian Constitution.
“It is the bounden duty of the respondents who are government and government functionaries to take all appropriate steps to see that a woman can carry out the duties assigned to her at all hours, harmlessly and conveniently. If that be so, there would be no excuse for denying appointment to an empowered hand only because she is a woman and because the nature of the employment would require her to work during night hours,” the judgement stated.
The court gave the verdict on April 9 on a plea by a 25-year-old woman engineering graduate, challenging the ‘male only’ provisions in a notification inviting applications for the permanent post of Safety Officer available in KMML.
The petitioner, Treasa Josfine, sought to set aside Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948, contending that it denies her right to participate in the selection for consultation as Safety Officer. The requester also contended that the provision is violative of the relevant rights guaranteed to her under the Constitution.
The court observed that the Factories Act, 1948, was enacted at a time when requiring a woman to work in an establishment of any nature, more so in a factory at night, could only be seen as exploitative and a violation of her rights.
“Evidently, the world has moved forward and women who were relegated to the roles of the lady of the house during the times when the enactment had been framed, have taken up much more demanding roles in society as well as in economic spheres. In the present scenario, to say that a graduate engineer in safety engineering cannot be considered for appointment as Safety Officer in a public sector undertaking because of an offending provision under Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, according to me, is completely insupportable and unacceptable,” the court said.
“This is evident from the fact that the state of Kerala has approved an amendment to the Rules which permits the engagement of women on condition that all safety precautions and facilities for such engagement are arranged by the employer,” the court added.
The court noted the decision in Hindustan Latex Ltd’s case and the subsequent laying down of the law by the Supreme Court, which made it abundantly clear that a fully qualified woman cannot be denied her right to be considered for employment only based on her gender.