New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to explain the criteria for engaging the NGOs in family planning programmes, including birth control camps.
"On what basis NGOs are given authority for organising the family planning camps. What is the criteria? Is it based on a principal or a decision of an individual officer," asked the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice U.U, Lalit as the Centre told the court that it has a plan to do away with such family planning camps.
The court was informed about the botched up sterilisation camps organised by the NGOs. The bench then asked whether compensation was paid to the families of the victims.
The court was hearing a PIL by activist Devika Biswas who drew attention to the unsafe sterilisations being carried out at these camps.
The petitioner referred to unhygienic conditions at the camps organised in Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
The bench reserved its verdict after Centre opposed the plea for setting up of a separate Court of Commission, saying it would create a parallel monitoring mechanism which may confuse the field workers.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Counsel Colin Gonsalves appreciated the guidelines, standards and norms set by the Centre but said they were just on paper and not being enforced.
Gonsalves told the court that in case of botched up sterilisation, the NGO is blacklisted, doctors are placed under suspension but nothing happens to the government officials "who allow such things to happen".
Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand said the Centre was executing a plan to do away with the birth control camps for undertaking male/female sterilisation and it would be done at the district, sub-district hospitals and primary health centres.
She said the plan was set into motion in 2015 and would take three years to cover the entire country.
Anand informed the court that Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Sikkim have already phased out such camps.
She told the bench that India had the lowest death rate in Asia on account of sterilisation.
"India conducts over 40 lakh sterilisations in a year and the death rate is below three per lakh, which is similar to the neighbouring Asian countries and one of the lowest in the world," she said.
Anand said the entire administrative machinery involved in the execution of plan had been firmed-up, additional allocations have been made and there is monitoring at all levels by the officials.
S.K. Sikdar, Deputy Commissioner of the Family Planning Division of health ministry, clarified on specific queries from the bench.