The Delhi Commission for Women on Saturday issued a notice to the State Bank of India asking it to amend or withdraw rules under which women who are over three months pregnant are considered “temporarily unfit”.

The commission’s chairperson Swati Maliwal said that the rule appeared to be discriminatory and illegal. She added that it was contrary to the maternity benefits under the Code of Social Security, 2020. Maliwal said that the rule discriminated on the basis of sex, thus violating the fundamental rights provided by the Constitution.

The panel issued the notice based on media reports, and asked the State Bank of India to provide a copy of the guidelines to it.

Earlier, women candidates pregnant up to six months were permitted to the join the bank, if they met certain conditions, PTI reported. Such a candidate would need to get a certificate from a gynaecologist stating that her taking up employment was not likely to interfere with her pregnancy or the development of the foetus, cause miscarriage, or otherwise adversely affect her health.

The Delhi Commission for Women has asked the State Bank of India to ensure that the rules are not discriminatory towards women. The panel has also directed it to state the process through which the guidelines were formed, and the names and designations of the approving authorities.

The commission has directed the State Bank of India to reply to the notice by February 1.

Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam also wrote to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seeking the withdrawal of the bank’s guidelines, ANI reported. He said that the policy failed to consider the needs of working women and would lead to further discrimination against them in the workplace.

“It appears that under the garb of ‘empowering women’, the new guidelines, which consider pregnant women who are 3 months and above as being temporarily unfit for appointment, are in fact arbitrarily discriminating against them,” Viswam said.

As per the guidelines, a pregnant woman candidate can join the bank within four months after giving birth to the child.

The rule in question is part of the medical fitness and ophthalmological standards for new recruits and promotees, issued on December 31, according to PTI.

The All India State Bank Of India Employees’ Association General Secretary KS Krishna said that the union has also written to the management seeking the withdrawal of the rule.

“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,” Krishna said.