Prioritise Cases Of HIV Positive Persons : Supreme Court Directs All Courts; Issues Directions To Centre & States To Enforce HIV Act
In a pathbreaking judgment delivered on September 26, the Supreme Court issued a series of vital directions to the Central and State Governments to ensure the effective implementation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 (HIV Act).The Court further directed all Courts, Tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies in the country...
In a pathbreaking judgment delivered on September 26, the Supreme Court issued a series of vital directions to the Central and State Governments to ensure the effective implementation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 (HIV Act).
The Court further directed all Courts, Tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies in the country to prioritize the cases relating to HIV-infected persons for early disposal as per the mandate of Section 34(2) of the HIV Act. The Court also directed that steps should be taken to keep the identity of HIV-infected persons anonymous.
The Court passed these directions while awarding Rs 1.5 crore compensation to an ex-Indian Air Force official who contracted HIV during a blood transfusion at a military hospital. The Court held both the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force jointly and severally liable for medical negligence.
The bench comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Datta was hearing an appeal against a judgment of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission(NCDRC) which denied the compensation claimed by the Air Veteran.
The HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 mandates several critical provisions to safeguard the rights and welfare of those affected by HIV or AIDS. The Supreme Court outlined the following directives:
- Ensure access to Diagnostic Facilities and Treatment: The Central and State Governments are instructed, under Section 14(1) of the HIV Act, to ensure access to diagnostic facilities related to HIV or AIDS, Antiretroviral therapy, and Opportunistic Infection Management for individuals living with HIV or AIDS.
- Frame Guidelines for Protocols within 3 months: The Central Government must issue guidelines for protocols concerning diagnostic facilities, Antiretroviral therapy, and Opportunistic Infection Management within three months. These guidelines, developed in consultation with experts, will be widely disseminated through electronic and print media, as well as public websites.
- Facilitate Access to Welfare Schemes: Both the Central and State Governments are directed, as per Sections 15(1) and (2) of the HIV Act, to facilitate better access to welfare schemes for individuals infected or affected by HIV or AIDS.
- Take Steps to Protect Children’s Property: Under Section 16(1) of the HIV Act, steps must be taken by the Central and State Governments to protect the property of children/their parents or guardians affected by HIV/AIDS.
- Formulate IEC(Informational, Educational, and Communicational) Programs: The Central and State Governments are mandated to formulate age-appropriate, gender-sensitive, non-stigmatizing, and nondiscriminatory information, education, and communication programs related to HIV and AIDS.
- Make Guidelines for Care and Support for Children Infected with HIV or AIDS: Guidelines for the care, support, and treatment of children infected with HIV or AIDS must be formulated by the Central Government, focusing on counseling and information regarding pregnancy outcomes and HIV-related treatment for infected women.
- Provide Safe Working Environment: All establishments related to healthcare services and those at significant risk of occupational exposure to HIV must provide universal precautions, training, and post-exposure prophylaxis. Awareness about these measures must be communicated to all personnel working in such establishments. This shall apply to all establishments consisting of one hundred or more persons, with a reduced threshold of twenty or more for healthcare establishments.
- Formulate rules for Compliance Oversight within 8 weeks: Those in charge of establishments mentioned in Section 20(1) of the HIV Act must ensure compliance with its provisions. A Complaints Officer should be designated to address violations. The Central Government may formulate rules preferably within 8 weeks in this regard.
"The Union Labour and Employment Secretary shall file an affidavit of compliance containing a tabular statement, with respect to the implementation of provisions of the Act, within 16 weeks from today", the Court ordered.
The Court also specifically instructed all courts and quasi-judicial bodies established under both central and state enactments to take proactive steps in line with Section 34 of the HIV Act.
Section 34 of the Act states as follows-
34. (1) In any legal proceeding in which a protected person is a party or such person is an applicant, the court, on an application by such person or any other person on his behalf may pass, in the interest of justice, any or all of the following orders, namely:—
(a) that the proceeding or any part thereof be conducted by suppressing the identity of the applicant by substituting the name of such person with a pseudonym in the records of the proceedings in such manner as may be prescribed
(b) that the proceeding or any part thereof may be conducted in camera
(c) restraining any person from publishing in any manner any matter leading to the disclosure of the name status or identity of the applicant
(2) In any legal proceeding concerning or relating to an HIV-positive person, the court shall take up and dispose of the proceeding on priority basis.
Pressing for a more inclusive and supportive legal environment, the Court also directed-.
- Chief Justices of HC to ensure data collection and privacy- The Chief Justices of all High Courts are tasked with compiling information and devising methods for collecting data concerning compliance with the HIV Act. They are also instructed to anonymize the identity of individuals affected, ensuring their privacy and dignity are upheld and complying with the provisions of Section 34(2) HIV Act.
- Registrar General of the Supreme Court to frame guidelines: “The Registrar General of the Supreme Court is directed to oversee the matter and frame relevant guidelines. Once approved, these guidelines will be issued and implemented to ensure consistent compliance with the provisions of the HIV Act throughout the judiciary.”
Case Number : C.A. No. 7175/2021
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 826