The Centre has told the Bombay High Court that a decision to bring sanitary napkins under the ambit of essential commodities can be taken only after a due and consultative procedure. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) expressed its willingness to include sanitary napkins under essential commodities.
But the same can be included after following some due procedure, which include assessment of the market scenario, quality and costing of the product, as well as preferences of the purchasers.
A Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice AA Sayed had sought replies from the Centre and the State of Maharashtra on the plea filed by the two students.
The reply filed by the Ministry said,
“The decision to bring sanitary napkins under the essential commodities may be done after understanding the current market scenario; the demand supply gap, if any; also keeping in mind the various options of brands, quality, specification, costing and preferences of the beneficiaries. The decision should be taken after due consultative process under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs ensuring involvement of all stakeholders and that there is no adverse effect on the beneficiaries and at the same time it fulfils the intent of the petitioner.”
In response to this PIL, the Centre also said that it has been implementing a scheme for promotion of menstrual health since as far back as 2011 and added that “Public Health and Hospitals in a State subject and the primary responsibility of providing healthcare facilities is that of each State government.”
The petitioners in the case are represented by Advocate Vinod Sangvikar while ASG Anil C Singh with Advocates Aditya Thakkar and DP Singh had represented the Centre. The State of Maharashtra was represented by GP PP Kakade and AGP BV Samant.
The reply further stated,
“Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been supporting the implementation of the Scheme for Promotion of Menstrual Hygiene among adolescent girls in the age group of 1O-19 years as part of the Reproductive Child Health since 2011.”
The petition by the students had come in the backdrop of the COVID-19 lockdown. Inter alia, a prayer was made for a direction to the government to distribute free sanitary napkins to the poor and needy women and girls.
This distribution was sought at par with other essential commodities that were being handed out under the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) during the nation-wide lockdown. The called for the recognition of sanitary napkins as essential commodities.
Read the MoHFW reply here;