Sanitary napkins could be declared as essential commodity: Centre to HC
The centre has informed the Bombay high court that it may consider declaring sanitary napkins as an essential commodity after public interest litigation was filed in this regard. The petitioners, law students, in light of the lockdown and Covid pandemic had sought directions for sanitary napkins to be made an essential commodity and be provided through the public distribution system.
The division bench headed by chief justice Dipankar Datta while hearing the petition filed by the students Nikita Gore and Vaishnavi Gholave through advocate Vinod Sangvikar on June 5 was informed that due to the pandemic situation most outlets dispensing sanitary napkins were shut. As a result of many women from the poor and marginalized sections of the society were unable to maintain personal hygiene due to the non-availability of sanitary napkins.
In light of these submissions, the petitioners had sought directions to the government to recognize sanitary napkins as an essential commodity by making changes to the Essential Commodity Act, 1955 and also sought effective implementation of the ‘Menstrual Hygiene Management National Guidelines, 2015’.
On June 5, after the state submitted that any addition in the Act was the prerogative of the centre, the bench had directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to respond to the plea within three weeks.
In response, MoHFW under-secretary Dilip Kumar Sahu submitted an affidavit last week which said that the petitioners were making sweeping allegations about the government machinery not functioning properly during the lockdown. The affidavit stated that MoHFW has been implementing the 2015 programme for promoting menstrual hygiene for girls between 10 and 19 years of age and states and union territories have a decentralised process for procuring sanitary napkins through a competitive bidding process ensuring quality standards.
Sahu further stated in the affidavit, “I most humbly submit that the decision to bring sanitary napkins under the essential commodities may be done after understanding the current market scenario, demand-supply gap, if any; also keeping in mind the various options of brands, quality, specification, costing and preferences of the beneficiaries.”
The affidavit added that a decision could be taken after consulting the Consumer Affairs Ministry and involving all stakeholders.
As per the directions of the court on June 5, the petitioners have to file a rejoinder to the affidavit after which the petition will be heard.