The Rajasthan High Court has held that depriving a woman of public employment on the ground of her being unmarried, was not only violative of her fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution but impinged upon her dignity as well.
Justice Dinesh Mehta quashed the condition in the circular requiring the applicant to be of married woman for applying the post of Anganwadi worker, saying this was a classic case of discrimination with a new facet for women.
"The condition of a woman to be married being absolutely unconscionable and violative of women’s right to apply and get public employment is liable to be declared arbitrary and unconstitutional," the court said.
A writ petition was filed by Madhu after being aggrieved with a condition in the Circular of November 09, 2016, issued by the state government.
She was graduate’s degree in Arts and had obtained a Computer Proficiency Certificate (RS-CIT), but is yet to marry.
Her counsel conducted the condition was absolutely irrational, discriminatory and violative of fundamental rights of the unmarried candidates.
The state counsel said the advertisement has a rationale behind it that is if after being engaged as Aanganwadi Worker or
Helper, if a candidate gets married and shifts to her marital home
(located at different place), the working of the Center where she
was appointed would get hampered.
The bench, however, held, "The discrimination which is meted out to the unmarried women on account of the offending condition cannot be countenanced. The same is ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and against the very scheme of the Constitution of India, which guarantees equality".
After framing the seminal question whether a candidate can be discriminated or denied public employment on the ground of his/her marital status, the judge said, mere fact that a candidate is unmarried cannot be a reason to disqualify her.
"Present case is a classic case wherein, the discrimination encountered by women has been given a new facet. An unmarried woman is discriminated against a married woman. The ostensible reason given to support the impugned condition that an unmarried woman after marriage would migrate to her matrimonial house does not pass muster the test of reasonableness and prudence," the court said.
The bench put a series of question to policy makers what if, the candidate marries to a boy of the same village or vicinity, what if, a married woman after being engaged as Anganwadi Karykarta moves to other place, what if, a woman’s husband decides to live in woman’s parental home, what if, a woman gets widowed or divorced and decides to move to a new place and what if, a woman does not wish to marry at all.
"The State can neither pre-empt any such situations nor can it prevent a woman from claiming job simply because she has not tied the nuptial knot," the bench said.
Allowing the writ petition, the court said that marital status or the condition of a woman to be married to work in Aanganwadi hardly fulfills any object.
"The apprehension that after marriage, a women will move on to her matrimonial house is firstly baseless and secondly, it cannot be a reason to justify or protect the offending condition," the bench said.
It said the condition which requires an applicant to be a resident of the area in which the Aanganwadi Center is situated is sufficient to ward off the apprehension of the State and further to ensure smooth functioning of the Aanganwadi Center.