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Supreme Court directs Central government to file report on women healthcare crisis in Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh

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The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Central government to seek response from the Health Secretaries of Rajasthan, Bihar and Chhattisgarh within four weeks regarding the women healthcare crisis in these states.

The Apex Court was hearing a petition highlighting the increasing inadequacy of government healthcare programmes in these three states, compelling women to travel hundreds of kilometres for getting treatment in private hospitals. 

The top court of the country was apprised that the State of Bihar had initiated suo motu action into the issue.

The Apex Court asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati to assist the court in the case and listed the matter for hearing after four weeks.

Earlier on December 13 last year, the Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. 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)

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