The notice was issued by a bench comprising Justices Madan Lokur and U.U. Lalit on a petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) asking for payment of maternity benefits as prescribed by the law, with retrospective effect.
Maternity benefits of Rs 6,000 per child have been a legal entitlement of women ever since the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was implemented two years ago. However, the Central government has not taken any steps so far to provide these entitlements. The one-time maternity benefit to pregnant women, entitled under the NFSA, was to be implemented from July 2013.
However, maternity benefits are still confined to a few districts under a pilot scheme (the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana) that goes back to the time of the UPA government.
The Supreme Court also issued notice to the Centre on the larger issue of non-implementation of the National Food Security Act. The petitioners, had argued that the three successive extensions of the NFSA deadline by the Centre were illegal as extension had been done through government orders instead of an amendment of the Act in Parliament.
For other aspects of the non-implementation of NFSA by State Governments and Union Territories, the Bench observed that the petitioners should approach the respective High Courts.