NEW DELHI: In an important decision related to the right to employment and reproductive rights of women, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that a woman cannot be barred from joining any uniform service on grounds of pregnancy.

The court ruled in favor of a woman petitioner who after clearing her short service commission exam in 2013 was slated to join the Army Medical Corps (AMC) in February 2014. Unlike other military corps, AMC takes in women, married or not, up till the age of 45. The candidate had applied for the job in 2013 but on the day she was to join the post she informed the authorities that she was pregnant.

The AMC cancelled her candidature saying that her pregnancy indicated a ‘deterioration in health’ and advised her that she would have to go through the entire selection process again.

The woman moved to High Court and argued that her pregnancy didn’t amount to ‘deterioration in health’ in any way but was a natural part of being a woman. She also said that there would have been no problem had she hidden her pregnancy and revealed it only after joining the service or had conceived after joining.

The court in its decision pointed out that this choice between pregnancy and employment given to the woman by AMC ran counter to modern values, and had no place in society today. Justice Harvinder Singh Sidhu of Punjab and Haryana court, while citing the constitutional conventions and world precedents, said that the choice between motherhood and employment interferes with both a woman’s right to reproduction and her right to employment. He remarked that in such cases, the institution can either grant maternity leave to the woman, or reserve the seat which can be accorded to her once she’s back post pregnancy.