Bench attributes low female child ratio to lack of implementation of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act

Eliminating female foetus after pre-natal diagnostic tests has pushed the female child ratio down nationwide, the Supreme Court has observed.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra blamed the practice on lack of implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition on Sex-Selection) Act. Both judges gave different, but concurring, judgments.

Justice Radhakrishnan said: “Indian society’s discrimination against the female child still exists owing to various reasons, which has its roots in the social behaviour and prejudices, and due to the evils of the dowry system, which still prevails despite its prohibition under the Dowry Prohibition Act. The decline in the female child ratio leads to an irresistible conclusion that the practice of eliminating female foetus by pre-natal diagnostic techniques is widely prevalent. Complaints are many [of] at least a few of the medical professionals performing sex selective abortion.The provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, are also being consciously violated and misused.”

The Bench said: “We have gone through the chart as well as the data made available by various States, which depict a sorry and alarming state of affairs. Lack of proper supervision and effective implementation of the Act by various States is clearly demonstrated. However, Maharashtra has a better record. Seldom are ultrasound machines used for such sex determination in violation of the provisions of the Act seized and, even if seized, they are being released to the violators, only [for them] to repeat the crime. Few cases end in conviction. Cases booked under the Act are pending disposal for several years in many courts. Nobody takes any interest in their disposal and hence, seldom do those cases end in conviction and sentences, a fact well known to the violators.

Many of the ultra-sonography clinics seldom maintain any record as per the rules, and in respect of the pregnant women, no records are kept for their treatment, and the provisions of the Act and the rules are being violated with impunity.”

Directives to Centre, States

In view of this, the Bench issued a series of directives to the Centre and all the States. The Central Supervisory Board and the State and Union Territory Supervisory Boards, constituted under Sections 7 and 16A of the PN&PNDT Act, would meet at least once in six months to supervise the implementation of the Act.

The State Advisory Committees and the District Advisory Committees should gather information on the breach of the provisions of the Act and the rules and take steps to seize records, seal machines and institute legal proceedings in case of any violation.

The committees should report the details of the charges framed and the conviction of the persons who committed the offence to the State Medical Councils for proper action, including suspension of the registration of the unit and cancellation of the licence to practise.

The States and District Advisory Boards should ensure that all manufacturers and sellers of ultra-sonography machines do not sell anything to any unregistered centre, as provided under Rule 3-A of the Act, and disclose, on a quarterly basis, to the State/the Union Territory concerned and the Central government a list of persons to whom the machines have been sold, in accordance with Rule 3-A (2).

The State governments should map all registered and unregistered ultra-sonography clinics in three months. Steps should be taken to sensitise the people to the need for implementing the provisions of the Act, through workshops and awareness camps.

Special cells should be constituted to monitor the progress of various cases pending in court and steps taken for their early disposal.

The authorities should seize the machines used illegally. They could be confiscated under the Code of Criminal Procedure and sold.

Courts should dispose of all pending cases within six months. The States should file a status report in three months.

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