SC Calls Sterilisation “Coercion”, Asks Govt to Shut Camps Down

The court also asked the central government whether it would like to frame a National Health Policy or not.

2 min read
Women, who underwent sterilization surgery at a government mass sterilisation camp, pose for pictures inside a hospital at Bilaspur district in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh. (Photo: Reuters)

The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, asked the central government to persuade the states to halt the holding of sterilisation camps at the earliest or at least within three years with well-equipped primary health care centres taking over the role.

The court also asked the central government to take a decision by 31 December, whether it would like to frame a National Health Policy or not.

Besides calling for a halt to the sterilisation camps, the court said that there should not be any targets for the implementation of the sterilisation programme.

In their judgement Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said:

Although the Union of India has stated that no targets have been fixed for the implementation of the sterilization program, it appears that there is an informal system of fixing targets. We leave it to the good sense of the each state government and union territory to ensure that such targets are not fixed so that health workers and others do not compel persons to undergo what would amount to a forced or non-consensual sterilisation merely to achieve the target.

Pointing to the policy imperative of increasing the proportion of male sterilisation from existing five per cent to 30 per cent, the court said:

Coercive methods are not justified and are not even effective in meeting the goals of population control. Improved access, education and empowerment should be the aim. The right to health is an integral part of the right to life does not need any repetition.

Referring to 363 deaths that have taken place due to sterilisation procedures between 2010 to 2013, the court said that discontinuation of sterilisation camps would “necessitate simultaneous strengthening of the Primary Health Care centres across the country both in terms of infrastructure and otherwise so that health care is made available to all persons”.

The verdict came on a PIL by a health rights activist, Devika Biswas who had sought the court’s intervention following spate of botched-up sterilisation camps that were conducted across the states – from Bihar to Chhattisgarh – resulting in loss of precious human lives.

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