PIL says nurses are harassed and their fundamental rights curbed

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre and States for framing guidelines for hospitals, particularly private ones, to prevent them from retaining original certificates of nurses at the time of their employment.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia issued notices to Ministry of Health and Family Affairs and State governments on a PIL alleging that hospital authorities under them continuously violated the fundamental rights of nurses.

The PIL filed by the Indian Professional Nurses' Association (IPNA) submitted that they were “literally treated as bonded labourers and asked to make payment to get back their certificates.”

IPNA's advocate Deepak Prakash said there were no guidelines to protect the interest of nurses working in various hospitals in different States and the authorities were needlessly harassing them.

The association said the petition was filed for the enforcement of fundamental rights of working professional nurses under Article 14, 19 & 21 of the Constitution.

The IPNA drew the court's attention to the practice of obtaining “service bonds” from nurses and compelling them to work against their ‘will.' Hospitals also forced them to deposit a huge amount for releasing their qualification certificates. They were even subjected to sexual harassment.

The petition said nurses were compelled to sign vouchers for inflated salaries while in fact being paid very meagre amounts.

“The acts of the employers are in violation of human rights and also the prevailing labour laws,” it said.

The petition mentioned the recent case of a 22-year-old nurse working at a premier private hospital in Mumbai committing suicide and another being asked by a private hospital in Gurgaon to deposit Rs. 50,000 for release of her certificates.

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