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09.02.09 - The Center filed a memorandum of support for Kalyani Meena v. Union of India & Ors, a case developed in collaboration with the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) of India in 2008 to address the overwhelming number of preventable deaths of women who die either in pregnancy or childbirth in the north Indian state.
Case filed: 4/6/09
Plaintiff(s): Kalyani Meena
Cooperating Attorneys: Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)
Summary: On April 6, 2009, the Center filed a memorandum of support for Kalyani Meena v. Union of India & Ors, a case developed in collaboration with the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) of India in 2008 and submitted before the Jharkhand High Court, to address the overwhelming number of preventable deaths of women who die either in pregnancy or childbirth in the north Indian state.
The Center's brief highlights the egregious human rights violations implicated in maternal deaths; it frames maternal mortality as a human rights concern that the Government of India is obligated to urgently address, deriving support from India's international treaty obligations to ensure, for example, access to health care services and freedom from non-discrimination.
This public interest petition reveals that the state government of Jharkhand has failed to properly implement maternal health policies under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) and the Janani Yojana Suraksha (JYS), a maternal health initiative that encourages women to seek out institutional births. It urges the government to take action and ensure implementation of the NRHM and IPHS, as well as to introduce the monitoring of hemoglobin levels of women under the JYS and to establish a pregnancy related death surveillance mechanism to monitor incidence of maternal mortality. The petition also addresses the lack of adequate facilities and the absence of an effective referral system, requesting that the state government establish fully functional health facilities where needed, such that no person is denied free health services under the NRHM.
Both the writ petition itself and the Center's memo comprise one lawsuit in a larger national public interest litigation strategy aimed at combating both maternal mortality and morbidity throughout India. The Center has filed memoranda of support in maternal mortality and morbidity cases throughout India, including Sandesh Bansal v. Union of India & Ors., W.P. No. 9061/2008, Centre for Health and Resource Management v. The State of Bihar & Others, and Snehalata Singh v. The State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., W.P. No. 14588/2009. The Center's International Legal Program recently authored a report, Maternal Mortality in India: Using International and Constitutional Law to Promote Accountability and Change, which explicitly calls for legal action to ameliorate this public health and human rights crisis and to hold the government accountable for maternal deaths and injuries.