Form nodal agency to check online pre-natal sex selection ads: SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the government to constitute a nodal agency to monitor and trigger search engines to crack down on online pre-natal sex determination advertisements.

A Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra ordered that the nodal agency should receive complaints about illegal online advertisements under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act of 1994. It should communicate the tip-offs to online search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, which would delete these advertisements within 36 hours of getting the information.

“We direct the Union of India to constitute a nodal agency which would give advertisements on TV, radio and in newspapers ... that if anybody comes across anything which identifies a girl or a boy [at pre-natal stage], it should be brought to the notice of the nodal agency,” the Bench, also comprising Justice Amitava Roy, observed.

“Once it is brought to the notice of the nodal agency, it shall inform the search engines and they, after receiving the information, are obliged to delete it within 36 hours and inform the nodal agency,” the court said.

Interim arrangement

The apex court said this interim arrangement would continue till it took a final decision on the continued existence of online sex selection ads. The court was hearing a petition filed in 2008 by Dr. Sabu Mathew George in the background of increasing instances of female foeticide. The petition contended that pre-natal sex determination tests continue with impunity despite being made illegal in 1994.

“Whatever is prohibited under the Act cannot go through websites ... The 1994 Act says nobody shall propagate (pre-natal sex determination) and if anyone is propagating, it has to be stopped,” Justice Misra observed. The court posted the case for hearing next on February 17, 2017.

Counsel’s assurance

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Google India Pvt Ltd, along with counsel representing other search engines, assured the Bench that their clients were complying with the court’s past orders and had taken steps against pre-natal sex determination advertisements.

In the previous order, the Supreme Court concluded that it was the liability of the search engines to check for pre-natal sex determination advertisements and develop in-house methods to prohibit such content.

Auto block technique

Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, had informed the court that the search engines had developed a technique called “auto block” which prohibited advertisements on sex determination. Mr. Kumar had also submitted a list of 43 “proposed” key words to trigger the auto block mechanism.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 12:12:41 AM |

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