SBI withdraws controversial guideline that barred pregnant women from joining service

New Delhi: The State Bank of India on Saturday withdraw its controversial guideline that barred women who are over 3 months pregnant from joining the service terming them as "temporarily unfit".

The guideline had invoked criticism from various corners. Political organisations and the Women's Commission asked the bank to withdraw the notification.

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) on Saturday issued a notice to the SBI seeking withdrawal of the guideline.

The notice states that the Commission has taken suo-moto cognizance on media reports of framing of "new guidelines" by the State Bank of India for "new recruitments and promotions".

Citing media reports, the notice stated that a recent circular issued by the bank on December 31 "prevents women who are more than three-month pregnant from joining service, despite having been selected through due process."

In its latest medical fitness guidelines for new recruits or promotees, the bank said a candidate would be considered fit in case of pregnancy which is less than 3 months.

"However, if pregnancy is of more than 3 months, she will be considered temporarily unfit and she may be allowed to join within 4 months after delivery of the child," as per the medical fitness and ophthalmological standards for new recruits and promotees dated December 31, 2021.

For recruitment, it said, the policy will be effective from the date of approval December 21, 2021.

The revised standards in respect of promotion will be applicable with effect from April 1, 2022, it said.

Earlier, women candidates with up to 6 months of pregnancy were allowed to join the bank subject to various conditions.

The conditions include furnishing a certificate from a specialist gynaecologist that her taking up bank's employment at that stage is in no way likely to interfere with her pregnancy or the normal development of the foetus, or is not likely to cause her miscarriage or otherwise to adversely affect her health.

An e-mail sent to SBI seeking comments on the guidelines did not elicit any immediate response.

CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam wrote to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman demanding immediate withdrawal of medical fitness circular issued by SBI pertaining to the guidelines for the recruitment of pregnant women, saying "it undermines women's rights."

According to the All India State Bank Of India Employees' Association General Secretary K S Krishna, the union had to SBI management urging it to withdraw the guidelines.

"The proposed amendment by the bank is fundamentally prejudicial and against womanhood. The proposed amendment will be unconstitutional as it discriminates against women, by treating pregnancy as a disease/disability.

"It cannot be forced upon a woman to have a choice between bearing a child and employment as it interferes both with her reproductive rights and her right to employment and such an action cannot have any place in the present modern era," he said.

In 2009 also, the same proposal was mooted by the bank but was withdrawn after a lot of hue and cry, he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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