Following widespread criticism, the State Bank of India on Saturday suspended the rule under which women who were over three months pregnant were considered “temporarily unfit”.

The rule was a part of the revised fitness standards for recruitment in the bank, which were issued on December 31. It stated that if a woman candidate is recruited when she was over three months pregnant, she can join work four months after giving birth to the child.

SBI said that the new guidelines were intended to provide clarity on some aspects on which instructions were unclear or old. “In some sections of the media, the revision in norms in this regard has been interpreted as discriminatory against women,” a press release issued by the bank said.

SBI said that it has now placed the provision in question in abeyance “in view of the public sentiments”.

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

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi on Saturday called the SBI’s explanation “strange” but welcomed the decision to suspend the rule. Earlier in the day, she had written to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and SBI Chairman Dinesh Kumar Khara demanding the revocation of the “discriminatory” rule.

The Delhi Commission for Women had also issued a notice to the SBI asking it to amend or withdraw the rule. The panel’s chairperson Swati Maliwal had said that the rule was contrary to the maternity benefits under the Code of Social Security, 2020 and violated fundamental rights provided by the Constitution.

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