The Supreme Court sought the Centre's response yesterday on a PIL alleging that doctors in Bihar, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have been performing unnecessary hysterectomies, a surgical procedure to remove the uterus, on poor women just to reap high insurance fees from governments under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY).

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud also sought the assistance of Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati to deal with the public interest litigation (PIL) matter filed by Narendra Gupta, himself a medical practitioner.

The bench, also comprising Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala, granted four weeks' time to the Centre for filing its response to the PIL.

AOR Satya Mitra appeared for the Petitioner while AOR Abhinav Mukerji appeared for the Respondent before the Apex Court.

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the uterus after which a woman can neither conceive nor can have menstrual periods regardless of her age. The PIL, based on media reports and researched facts, alleged a "widespread pattern of doctors performing medically unnecessary hysterectomies to reap high insurance fees from the government" in states such as Bihar, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

It sought compensation for the victim women and meaningful policy changes to deal with the problem. The women, aided by heavily-subsidised state-funded health insurance schemes, usually go to private hospitals for medical care for symptoms such as "abdominal pain and general weakness" and doctors resort to "unnecessary hysterectomy operations after cursory, or in some cases, no medical examinations", the petition alleged.

"The present petition has been filed in the nature of public interest litigation...and arises from an influx of news stories and Right to Information (RTI) results in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan regarding unlawful hysterectomies and related insurance scams," it said.

The petition sought directions to the state governments to implement monitoring, inspection and accountability mechanisms for the private healthcare industry, which are empanelled to serve the poor covered under the government's Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY).

The RSBY has been launched by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment to provide a health insurance coverage to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. The objective of the scheme is to provide protection to BPL households from financial liabilities arising out of health shocks that involve hospitalisation.

Cause Title - Dr. Narendra Gupta v. Union of India & Ors.

Click here to read/download the Order

With PTI Inputs