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Supreme Court Issues Notice To Centre In Plea Seeking Measures To Control "Population Explosion"

Padmakshi Sharma
8 Aug 2022 2:30 PM GMT
Supreme Court Issues Notice To Centre In Plea Seeking Measures To Control Population Explosion
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The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre in a petition seeking directions to the Centre to control "population explosion" in order to secure citizens' fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

The petition stated that the cause of action for the current petition arose from a December 2020 affidavit submitted by the Centre (signed by an Under Secretary in the Union Health Ministry's Family Planning division) to the Supreme Court stating that, India was "unequivocally against coercion in family planning". The Centre's affidavit was in repsonse to an earlier PIL filed, seeking population control measures. Through this affidavit, Centre had asserted that–

"The family welfare programme in India is voluntary in nature which enables couples to decide the size of their family and of the family planning methods, best suited to them...In fact, international experience shows that any coercion to have a certain number of children is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions."

The petition raised an objection to the same, arguing that the lack of policies to control population explosion, which was the biggest menace to democracy and socio-economic development of the country, caused severe injury to Indian citizens, particularly women.

While highlighting the effect of population explosion on women, the petition stated that in India, malnutrition and anaemia was rampant in expecting mothers and that it only became worse with repeated pregnancies, jeopardising their health and leading to future adverse pregnancy outcomes. It also stated that there was an increased risk of abortions in such mothers and it made women more prone to infections. As per the petition, such women also are more prone to genital tract injuries including rupture of uterus which may even lead to hysterectomy (surgical removal of the womb). The petition submitted that these women spend the most productive and active years of their lives performing the task of childbearing in breastfeeding and with fewer children they would be able to pursue their hobbies, their dreams and move towards a better quality of life. As per the petition, the harmful effect of multiple pregnancies was also seen in babies who may be premature or of low birth weight.

The petition relented that the right to clean air, right to drinking water, right to health, right to peaceful sleep, right to shelter, right to livelihood and, right to education guaranteed under article 21–22 A could not be secured to all citizens without effective population control and that the lack of the same was the root cause of India's pitiable condition in various international rankings.

As per the petition, the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution (NCRWC), after elaborate discussions had suggested addition of Article 47A in the Constitution and formulation of population control law. However, despite the constitution being amended 125 times, population control law, was never made. The petition also highlighted that with India had 80 crore people who were Below Poverty Line and the population density of India was 404 people per square kilometre of area, whereas the global density was at a mere 51 persons per square kilometre land area.

The petition suggested that since fertility depends upon the age of marriage, the minimum age of marriage of women in the country should be raised and free education should be provided to women. The petition also underlined that in 1976, at time of implementing the 42nd amendment act to the Constitution, Entry 28 was inserted in List III to Schedule VII, which was population control-family planning. The petition stated that–

"The insertion in the concurrent list is palpable that the federal states also have a say in the matter of population control. Some states have implemented laws to disqualify from contesting elections to local bodies in the circumstance that one has more than two children. However, sporadic changes to law in only certain states can never managed to yield results."

Thus, the petitioners have prayed the court to direct the Centre to frame stringent and effective rules regulations and guidelines to control population explosion in order to secure fundamental rights. It has also been prayed to direct the Centre to ascertain the feasibility of making "two child norm" as a mandatory criteria for government jobs, aids, subsidies as well as right to vote, right to contest and right to free shelter. The petition has also requested the court to direct Centre to declare first Sunday of every month as "Population Control Day" in place of Polio Day in order to spread awareness on population explosion and provide condoms, vaccines and contraceptive pills to EWS and BPL parents and polio vaccines to children. In the alternative, the petition has prayed the court to direct the Law Commission of India to examine population control laws and policies of developed nations and prepare a comprehensive report within three months.

The Supreme Court has issued notice in the matter.

CASE TITLE: DEVKINANDAN THAKURJI v. UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS|WP (C) No. 480 of 2022

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