Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today asked the Maharashtra government what steps it has taken to bring down prices of sanitary napkins and spread awareness about their use.
A division bench of Justices N H Patil and N W Sambre said it was an important issue affecting half the population.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by NGO Shetty Women Welfare Foundation, which raised the issue of non-availability of sanitary napkins for “over 80 per cent of women” because of lack of awareness or high prices. The petition also challenged the 12 per cent Goods and Services Tax on sanitary napkins.
“This is an important issue… it affects half the population. What has the Maharashtra government done to increase and spread awareness about the use of sanitary napkins,” Justice Patil asked. The the state government should also consider lowering the costs of sanitary napkins, he said.
“The state government also needs to consider cutting down the cost of these napkins…make them available at concessional rates,” he said. The court said the government should promote Indian manufacturers which would bring down prices. “First step is (creating) effective awareness and the second step is making the napkins available and at a subsidised rate,” Justice Patil said.
The bench suggested that the government issue guidelines to Gram Panchayats which could ask their women members to spread awareness on the issue in rural areas. The high court directed the state’s principal secretary and secretaries of the departments concerned to hold discussions on the issue.
On the subject of GST, the judges said it would be better if the additional solicitor general (who represents the Centre) assisted the court during further hearings. The bench posted the petition for hearing after two weeks.