New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday sought response of the Centre and state governments for framing guidelines for hospitals, particularly private ones, to prevent them from retaining original certificates of nurses at the time of their employment.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia issued notices to Ministry of Health and Family Affairs and state governments on a PIL alleging that harassment and hostile attitude of the various hospital authorities under them, continuously violating the fundamental rights of various nurses working all over India.
The PIL filed by Indian Professional Nurses` Association (IPNA) submitted that the nurses are "literally treated as bonded labourers and are asked to make payment to get back their certificates".
IPNA`s advocate Deepak Prakash submitted that there are no guidelines to protect and safeguard the interest of nurses working in various hospitals in different states and the authorities concerned are unnecessary harassing them.
The association said the present petition was filed for the enforcement of fundamental rights of working professional nurses under Article 14, 19 & 21 of constitutional in view of the prevailing circumstances whereby these nurses are exploited at their work places every day in one way or the other.
The IPNA submitted that it was drawing the attention of the court to the practice of obtaining "service bonds" in the nature of forced labour by hospitals and compelling them to work against their `will` and causing harassment by compelling them to deposit huge amount for releasing the certificates of qualification` and they are even subjected to sexual harassment.
The PIL said nurses are compelled to sign in vouchers for inflated amount and are paid very meagre amount and exploited by private hospitals.
"The acts of the employers are in violation of human rights and also the prevailing labour laws," the PIL said.
The IPNA in its petition mentioned recent instances of exploitation of nurses including a suicide committed by a 22- year-old nurse working at a premier private hospital in Mumbai and an example where a nurse was asked by a private hospital in Gurgaon to deposit Rs 50,000 for release of her certificates.
The apex court deciding to entertain the PIL assumes importance as on December 9, 2011, it had asked the Centre to look into the issue of framing some guidelines.
The apex court during the last hearing was referred to a Delhi High Court order directing the city government to frame guidelines in this regard.
It was submitted that similar order is required from the Supreme Court as such practice is prevalent all over the country.
The high court had on July 20, 2011 directed the government to frame the guidelines within three months.
The court had passed the order on a PIL filed by a nurse, who hails from Kerala, alleging a private hospital in south Delhi had refused to give back her original certificates and accept her resignation as she had to attend her terminally ill mother in hospital.