Delhi High Court has directed Delhi Government to ensure that the helpline number which is proposed to be set up within two days, for assisting senior citizens in Delhi, is also made available to pregnant ladies.
While taking the assurances given by the government of record, the Division Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad has also directed the Delhi Government to publicise the said helpline number through newspapers and the social media as also through the Delhi Police, wherever possible.
The court said:
'Central Government and the Delhi Government shall work in tandem to make sure that no barriers are faced by pregnant ladies and their family members residing in hot spots during the lockdown.'
In today's proceedings, Advocate Vrinda Grover, who appeared for the Petitioner, informed the court that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, duties of most of the Auxiliary Nurses and Midwives (ANMs) have been diverted to COVID related work and therefore, they are not readily available for assistance.
Highlighting the lack of implementation of guidelines on ground, Ms Grover further submitted that there needs to be proper coordination between the Central and the State Government so that a Nodal Officer is appointed in every COVID-19 hotspot, whose contact number is made public and a dedicated helpline is set up for pregnant women seeking essential health services,which includes arranging transportation to and from the hospital, securing movement passes, etc.
Appearing for Delhi Government, Mr Anupam Srivastava assured the court that sufficient number of Asha workers and ANMs, will be made available in their respective areas so that they can reach out to the pregnant ladies and particularly those who are in the high risk category for a follow up.
Mr Srivastava further submitted that adequate assistance will be provided to pregnant women, particularly, in the last trimester. This will include arranging transportation for the pregnant ladies to visit to the hospital pre-delivery, for delivery and post delivery.
Before issuing directions, the court appreciated the prompt instructions given by the Delhi Government to its counsel appearing before the court. Ms Grover also expressed her satisfaction with the assurances given by the Delhi Government.
Filed by Sama Resource Group For Women and Health, the petition sought access to timely, proper and affordable reproductive and neonatal healthcare services for all women and their newborn children.
It was argued by the Petitioner that despite the Central Government including 'Services related to reproductive health, including care during pregnancy and childbirth' as an essential service in the April 15 notification, the same is not being implemented on ground.
It was submitted that despite the April 15 notification, pregnant women are experiencing substantial difficulties in accessing reproductive health services.
Petitioner further contended that the right to reproductive health is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. Moreover, the Indian government is obligated to protect this right as it's also recognised under International Treaties such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Convention For Elimination of All Forms Violence Against Women (CESAW), and Child Rights Convention (CRC).
The plea went on to highlight the plight of a pregnant woman who was denied medical services for being a non-COVID patient, or faced exorbitant costs at private hospitals. In addition to this, her difficulty was aggravated by the restricted transportation services as she lives in a 'red zone' designated area.
'The health and life of pregnant women and their soon to be born child is placed at grave risk by the denial of access to proper and timely medical care and attention, putting their rights under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution under jeopardy', the petition states.
In light of this, the Petitioner had highlighted that such instances are occurring due to the absence of clear, localized and specific directions and allocation of responsibilities to operationalize such orders.
The present petition was moved through Advocates Vrinda Grover, Ratna Appnender and Soutik Banerjee.
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