Ramesh Shankar, Mumbai
Friday, February 15, 2013, 08:00 Hrs [IST]

Close on the heels of the scathing criticism by the Supreme Court of India  for its alleged negligence in regulating the clinical trials in the  country, the Union health ministry has been given yet another dressing down, this time from an unexpected quarters – the National Human Rights  Commission (NHRC).

According to sources, the NHRC has issued a notice to the Union health  secretary on February 7 on a complaint that illegal drug trials are being  conducted on children without prior consent from the parents of these  children. The Commission has sought a reply from the health ministry within  four weeks’ time.

The human rights watchdog’s notice to the health ministry follows a  complaint by a Delhi-based social activist RH Bansal in which the activist  has alleged that the clinical drug trials violated the human rights of the  innocent children. In his complaint to the NHRC, Bansal alleged that  parents’ approval was not taken for subjecting their children to clinical  trials, which is an illegal and punishable act in the law.

It is learnt that the social activist has demanded to the government to  register criminal cases against doctors and pharmaceutical companies  involved in these clinical trials. He is reported to have asked the  Commission to direct the government to duly compensate the aggrieved  families, as the doctors in the hospital had forced the children into  clinical drug trials.

In his complaint to the NHRC, he alleged that three government hospitals  used 3,479 children in past five years as guinea pigs for clinical drug  trials without seeking the consent of the families. According to reports, Bansal had filed an RTI plea seeking details of the drug trials on children  since 2008. According to the replies from the three hospitals, the number  of such children was 2,056 in Safdarjung Hospital, 1,023 in Kalawati Saran  Children’s Hospital and 400 in Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi.

Recently, the union health ministry had come under severe criticisms from  the Supreme Court for the alleged negligence in regulating clinical trials  in the country. Hearing a public interest litigation filed by Swasthya  Adhikar Manch, an NGO working in the health sector, the apex court had  remarked that the Centre had slipped into a “deep slumber” even as illegal  drug trials on human beings by multinational companies were wreaking  “havoc” in the country.

In its petition to the Supreme Court, Swasthya Adhikar Manch had alleged  that large-scale clinical drug trials are conducted wherein Indians are  being used as guinea pigs by various pharmaceutical firms.

New Delhi, 7th February, 2013

The National Human Rights Commission today issued a notice to the  Secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, returnable in four  weeks, on a complaint alleging that three big government hospitals in Delhi . conducted illegal clinical drug trials on 3479 children during the last  five years. These include 2056 children at Safdarjung Hospital, 1023  children in Kalawati Saran Children Hospital and 400 children at Lok Nayak  Jai Prakash Hospital.

The complainant Mr. R.H. Bansal, a representative of an NGO, in his  petition to the NHRC has claimed that he got the information about the  number of children subjected to clinical trials under RTI. He also alleged  that parents’ approval was not taken for subjecting their children to  clinical trials which is an illegal and punishable act. The clinical drug  trials also violated the human rights of the innocent children.