The Bombay high Court has expressed severe displeasure over the Maharashtra government's apathy in effectively implementing menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and failing to file even an affidavit in the matter.
A division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor is hearing a public interest litigation by two law students – Nikita Gore and Vaishnavi Gholave – pointing out that the central and state government were not effectively implementing MHM resulting in women and particularly adolescent girls facing barriers.
The PIL, filed through advocate Vinod Sangvikar, has sought that the government be directed to declare sanitary napkins as an essential commodity and supply them at par with essential commodities to all poor and needy women amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abhinav Chandrachud, appearing for the petitioners, pointed out a report prepared by the District Legal Services Authority's committee highlighting the sorry state of affairs, not just in rural schools but also in the Mumbai suburban schools run by the government.
“Either water is not available, or toilets are in poor condition. There is a report from legal services. There are urinals in open air condition. They are not able to go to school because they do not have facilities. The photographs of legal aid officers are flagged,” Chandrachud said.
State advocate Bhupesh Samant informed the court that the Aurangabad bench of the HC had initiated suo motu (on its own) proceedings on the issue on January 21. Accordingly, a district level committee, led by the Principal District Judge, was formed to monitor school infrastructure.
Samant also said that the government had a scheme where ASHA workers provided training to girls on sanitary napkin usage.
However, the bench highlighted the District Legal Services Authority's report, which revealed poor toilet conditions in public schools.
“Something which is expected from you (government) is being done by the principal district judge. Just to ensure that girl children studying there have better facilities! We do not feel very happy to pass such orders involving principal district judges in such matters.”
Justice Doctor echoed CJ and remarked: “Look at the condition. The pictures are shocking.”
Samant pointed out that the government has written to 15 schools in Mumbai, Pune and Raigad after the report pointed out pathetic conditions.
Noting that there was not not much difference on the ground level after implementation of the scheme, the HC has asked the government to file an affidavit.
The HC has asked the government to file an affidavit in three weeks and kept the plea for hearing on December 6.