Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday asked the Union government to consider providing sanitary pads to women at cheaper rates. The HC has also ordered the government to file its say in response to a plea seeking implementation of the Menstrual Hygiene Management National Guidelines.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Amjad Sayed said, "Let the Union government file an affidavit within three weeks and clarify its stand on the issue."
"Pendency of this petition shall not preclude the Union and the state governments to consider the desirability of implementing the guidelines in its true spirit and perspective, if not already implemented," CJ Datta said.
The bench was dealing with a petition filed by Nikita Ghole, 26, and Vaishnavi Gholave, 23, both law students and residents of Aurangabad. The duo moved the HC through advocate Vinod Sangvikar, urging the bench to issue directions to the authorities to provide sanitary napkins at cheaper rates, especially during the present lockdown period, which has resulted in a steep shortage in their supply.
"The lockdown was announced in March 2020. Ever since people are migrating to their hometowns. There are various facilities provided by the government to these migrants but there is complete negligence on their part towards providing sanitation facilities for menstruating women," the petition reads.
"During this period of pandemic, various High Courts have taken cognizance of the sufferings of the migrants about food, shelter etc but no reference has been made regarding the Menstrual Hygiene of Women (MHW), a topic which is always neglected and ignored and as a result women have suffered a lot since ancient times," the plea states further.
The law students have further accused the government authorities of being negligent about this issue and turning a blind eye to the sufferings of women.
The plea further highlighted the imposition of the GST and the subsequent deletion of this item from the ambit of the GST.
"On one hand, the government has removed sanitary pads from GST ambit but on the other, it has imposed GST at the rate of 12-18 % on the input raw materials. This speaks volumes about the intentions of the government," the girls have pointed out.
"Therefore, the cost of the sanitary napkin has increased and hence, not all women can afford it. It is the essential requirement of every woman and they have the right to get it at a cheaper rate, as an essential commodity," the petition argues.
"It is the duty of the state to provide several measures to improve public health and for doing so, it is also necessary to implement the MHW scheme, 2011, which recommends a slew of measures to ensure hygienic menstruation," the plea states.
"Therefore, it is high time the court exercises its power under the Constitution of India and to protect the right of the women," the plea adds.