SC disapproves of Kerala’s extra levy on disposal of sanitary pads | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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SC disapproves of Kerala’s extra levy on disposal of sanitary pads

May 07, 2024 08:38 AM IST

The Supreme Court was hearing a PIL for a stay on the additional fee imposed on the disposal of used sanitary pads and diapers

The Supreme Court on Monday expressed displeasure at a Kerala government regulation that imposes an additional fee for the disposal of sanitary waste, lamenting that the state’s stance comes as a contradiction to the court’s consistent advocacy for menstrual hygiene and accessibility to sanitary products.

The petitioner challenged the validity of the fees. (ANI)
The petitioner challenged the validity of the fees. (ANI)

“On one hand, we have been issuing directions for ensuring menstrual hygiene by providing sanitary napkins in schools and other institutions, and on the other hand, the state is charging for the disposal of sanitary waste. How can it be? You justify this,” a bench of justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan asked the state government.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by Indu Varma, who pressed for a stay on the southern state’s regulation that permits an additional fee to be collected from residents for disposing of used sanitary pads and diapers.

“How can [the] state allow an extra charge from the residents on the collection of sanitary waste when no such provision exists in the solid waste management rules? People have been asked to pay extra for the collection of sanitary napkins, baby and adult diapers by the agencies assigned by the department concerned,” Varma, appearing in person, argued.

Varma added that her petition has also challenged the validity of the provision levying user fees for waste collection, adding there must be a definition of such levy and regulations to limit it. Kochi was specifically cited during the hearing as one of the cities in Kerala where the additional charge was levied.

Responding, the bench agreed with Varma, raising concerns about the possible impact of the additional fee for the disposal of sanitary waste on menstrual hygiene practices and access to essential sanitation facilities.

It asked the state government: “Why should you charge extra for sanitary waste? This will run contrary to the objective of our directions regarding menstrual hygiene. You will have to justify this.”

Informed by Varma that she has made all states and Union territories parties to the petition, the court said that it would issue “comprehensive directions” for all states to follow.

In separate proceedings, the Supreme Court has emphasised the need for proactive measures to address menstrual health challenges and ensure the well-being of women and girls while imploring governments to align their policies accordingly.

While hearing a PIL for providing free sanitary napkins to girls studying in classes 6 to 12 in all government, aided, and residential schools and pre-university colleges across the country, the court pushed for national guidelines on menstrual hygiene management. By order in November, the central government was directed to finalise the policy on the availability of low-cost sanitary pads, vending machines, and their safe disposal in educational institutions. The Centre had backed the petition, saying it was dedicated to enhancing young and adolescent girls’ menstrual hygiene, with over 97% of government schools having separate restrooms for girls and states providing affordable sanitary napkins through financial aid under the National Health Mission. This case is likely to be heard later this month.

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