Steps are under way to introduce amendments to certain sections of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act.
Deliberations at the Central Supervisory Board have focussed on strengthening the implementation of the Act, but contentious provisions among them are the simplification of Form F and a graded system of punishment.
Activists across the country have welcomed moves to prioritise implementation, but have protested against the efforts to “dilute” Form F, which they claim reduces the responsibility of the doctor/scan centre. Only aggressive implementation will be effective deterrence, they add, and violators must be punished.
In the last quarter of 2012, a rather significant event occurred that would bolster the implementation of the PCPNDT Act: the Medical Council of India took action against 100 doctors from various parts of the country for violating the provisions of the Act.
Based on requests from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Ethics Committee of the MCI issued a communication to various State medical councils, urging them to ensure that the decision to suspend/cancel the licences of the 100 doctors was carried out in “right earnest.” Anuradha Gupta, Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission, told The Hindu that the Health Ministry had taken it up with the MCI since State Councils, which had the power to suspend or cancel the licence, had not acted on the violators. The Central Supervisory Board, chaired by the Union Health Minister, considered the question of cancellation/suspension of licences and then wrote to the MCI to take immediate steps against the doctors.
The PCPNDT Act was enacted to prevent the termination of life of girl foetuses and infants out of a strong bias towards male children. Any violator “shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with a fine which may extend to Rs. 10,000 and on any subsequent conviction, with imprisonment which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to Rs. 50,000.”
State Medical Councils can take action including removal of the offender from its register for two years for the first offence and permanently for the subsequent offence. The 2011 Census put the total number of girl children under 6 years at 914 to 1,000 boys, worse than the 2001 figure of 927:1,000. It was flagged as an emergency, with activists arguing that it was probably the lowest ever since the Independence and sought that it be addressed aggressively across the country.
Jeeva of the Society for Integrated Rural Development, a Tamil Nadu-based organisation working against sex selective abortion, said the MCI’s action would send out a hugely positive message to the community.
However, the point of the reprimand and the conviction will not be entirely satisfied unless the message is widely publicised.
“Largely in India, cases of violation have gone undetected, or unpunished. For instance, there are about 72 cases of doctors’ violations of the Act in Tamil Nadu,” Mr. Jeeva added. There should be no dilution of Form F, he stressed, as it is the one way to keep tabs on what happens inside scan rooms.