The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Union government to file a reply on a public interest litigation (PIL), which alleged that women from marginalised communities in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan were subjected to illegal and forced hysterectomies.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice P.S. Narasimha and Justice J.B. Pardiwala directed the Union of India to file its response by the next date.
The Apex Court further asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati to assist the court in the case and listed the matter for hearing after four weeks.
The Counsel representing the petitioner submitted that the States of Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have also accepted in their affidavits that the practice was going on. Bihar had also taken suo motu cognisance of the issue, he added.
As per the lawyer, the Human Rights Commission had also admitted that this was going on. Requesting to keep the matter pending, the Counsel urged the top court of the country to direct the Union to file a reply, as the issue involved a Central scheme.
The Bench led by the CJI observed that on December 13 last year, it had directed the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to file a response examining the grievance that hysterectomies were unnecessarily being carried out in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan over the relevant period.
However, the orders were not complied with, it noted, adding that the Union of India was directed to comply with the orders by the next date.
Earlier on December 13 last year, the Bench of CJI Chandrachud and Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha had issued notice to the Union of India on the matter.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, was directed to examine the grievance raised in the petition, collate data regarding the same and submit a final response within eight weeks.
Filed by eminent medical professional Dr. Narendra Gupta under Article 32 of the Constitution, the Writ Petition sought redressal of violation of fundamental rights (Articles 14, 15, 21) and governmental healthcare programmes documented in an RTI and several newspaper reports.
It also sought introduction of monitoring, inspection and accountability mechanisms in private healthcare industry, establishing an independent monitor for regulating the function of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) scheme, providing compensation for medical costs and violation of Constitutional rights, improving rural healthcare infrastructure, suspension and imposition of criminal liability of the involved doctors.
As per the plea, several Below Poverty Line (BPL) women were forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to reach private hospitals, in the wake of increasing inadequacy of government healthcare programmes.
When these women complained of abdominal pain and poor menstrual health, they were coerced to opt for Hysterectomy, which aggravated their poor menstrual health and increased the risk of cancer, added the petition.
Dr. Gupta claimed that such procedures were performed by private hospitals through coercion, threats and sometimes even by abduction, for profit motive.
The Counsel for the petitioner further submitted that the informed consent was vitiated and nearly 286 unnecessary hysterectomies were performed in Rajasthan alone, with the States of Bihar and Chhattisgarh following suit. The case has been proceeding since March 18, 2013.
(Case title: Dr. Narendra Gupta vs Union of India and Ors)