The Rajasthan High Court has quashed a condition imposed by the State government requiring women to be married for getting appointed as Anganwadi workers in the Women and Child Development Department. The court said denial of job to an unmarried woman violated her right to equal opportunity in public employment.
An unmarried woman, Madhu, had challenged a circular of 2016 and an advertisement of 2019 laying down the marital status as an eligibility criterion for the job. In her writ petition, Ms. Madhu contended that such a condition was “irrational and discriminatory” and violated the fundamental rights of unmarried candidates.
On the other hand, the State government sought to defend the condition, saying that an Anganwadi worker, after being appointed, could get married and shift to her marital home located at a different place. This would hamper the working of Anganwadi centres functioning mostly in the villages, Additional Advocate-General Anil Gaur said.
Justice Dinesh Mehta at the High Court’s principal seat in Jodhpur held that the condition put forth by the State government was illegal, arbitrary and against the scheme of the Constitution, which guaranteed equality.
“This court is constrained to observe that an entirely new front of discrimination, which was not even envisaged or thought of by the framers of the Constitution, has now been opened by the government by including the contentious condition in the circular,” Justice Mehta observed in his judgment handed down earlier this week.
The court said an assumption that a woman after marriage would migrate to her matrimonial house did not pass the test of reasonableness and prudence and the mere fact that a candidate was unmarried could not be a reason to disqualify her.
The judge also said that a condition requiring an applicant to be a resident of the area in which the Anganwadi centre was situated was sufficient to ward off the apprehension of the State and ensure its smooth functioning.
Allowing the writ petition, the court said the State government would be free to get an undertaking from unmarried woman candidates or amend the circular to ensure that if a woman, having been engaged on a post in an Anganwadi centre, migrates to another place on account of marriage or otherwise, her engagement will be brought to an end.
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