The Supreme Court agreed to look into a petition that demanded opening virtual hearings for women lawyers during their pregnancy period or childcare for their newborns. The move would empower women and not let them let go of their careers while embracing motherhood. The petition filed by a Delhi-based lawyer Esha Mazumdar contended that virtual hearings would offer women the liberty to balance their personal and professional lives.
Pregnancy- Fundamental Right Under Article 21
In her petition, Mazumdar argued, "An option ought to be given to women lawyers to opt for virtual hearing during pregnancy and after that, for at least 26 weeks till the women are sufficiently independent to start appearing physically before Courts", Hindustan Times reported. Further, it also stated that since the right to pregnancy was a fundamental right under Article 21, the Court should take every possible measure not to violate the fundamental right only because a woman is pushed to choose between her pregnancy and career.
Notices To Centre, Bar Council, SC and HCs
The twin-Judge bench led by Justices L Nageshwara Rao and BR Gavai agreed to hear the petition. Moreover, two other petitions seeking continuation of virtual hearing before the Supreme Court and High Courts of the country are pending before the Apex Court. The Top Court also issued notices to the Centre, Bar Council of India, SC and all the high courts and scheduled the case for hearing on December 6, along with the two pending petitions.
However, the bench also sounded a caution saying that they wanted Courts to open up before taking a call on the exceptions. It also mentioned that there was no such petition before the pandemic. It noted, "Tomorrow teachers will approach the Court to provide for the right to teach through virtual classroom. We cannot allow lawyers as a separate class."