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PIL on two-child norm: SC allows plea to implead MOHFW to be a party

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New Delhi [India], May 8 (ANI): The Supreme Court has allowed a plea to make the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) a party in connection with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and lawyer, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who has sought certain directions, including two-child norm policy, to control the country's growing population.

A single judge of the Apex Court, Justice Sanjiv Khanna allowed the MOHFW to become a party to the PIL filed by Upadhyay who had sought impleadment of it (MOHFW), instead of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and fixed the matter for further hearing in the week commencing 5th of July, 2021.

"This application for impleadment of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in place of Ministry of Home Affairs is allowed, subject to all just exceptions," Justice Khanna said in his order yesterday.

The Apex Court also said that the counter affidavit filed by the MOHFW, Union of India (UOI), is taken on record. Rejoinder, if any, may be filed within six weeks. In the interest of justice, re-list these applications in the week commencing 5th of July, 2021, Justice Khanna said.

The PIL, filed by Upadhyay, affidavit sought many directions, from the Supreme Court, including that of two children norm policy, to control the population explosion in India by introducing a population control law.

In fact, the government said 2001-2011 witnessed the sharpest decline in decadal growth rate among Indians in 100 years, the Centre said in its affidavit.

The UOI had said, India was a signatory to the Programme Of Action (POA) of the International Conference on Population and Development, 1994, which was unequivocally against coercion in family planning.

It added that international experience shows that "any coercion to have a certain number of children is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions." The government also explained that India had been witnessing a "constant decline" in the total fertility rate (TFR).

The Central government referred to the Census statistics, according to which it said, "2001-2011 was the first decade in the last 100 years which had not only added lesser population as compared to the previous one, but also registered the sharpest decline in the decadal growth rate from 21.54 per cent in 1991-2001 to 17.64 per cent in 2001-2011".

The Total Fertility Rate, which was 3.2 at the time when National Population Policy 2000, was adopted has declined substantially to 2.2 as per the Sample Registration System of 2018.

The government asserted that "the wanted fertility in India as per National Family Health Survey IV is only 1.8 as against the actual fertility of 2.2 prevailing at that time, indicating thereby that couples on an average do not want more than two children. Also, as many as 25 out of 36 States/UTs have already achieved the replacement level fertility of 2.1 or less."

It told the apex court that there is a National Health Policy (NHP) 2017, which provided for policy guidance to inform, clarify, strengthen and prioritise the role of the government in shaping health systems in all its dimensions. It added that the NHP sets out indicative, quantitative goals and objectives, which includes the achievement of TFR of 2.1 by 2025.

The Centre also said public health is a state subject and it is of the view that the state must lead the process for health sector reforms in a suitable and sustainable manner to protect the common individual from health hazards. (ANI)

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