New Delhi, March 4: The Supreme Court today regretted the “alarming” rise in female foeticides, blamed even the “educated middle class”, and directed the Centre and states to crack down on prenatal sex-determination centres and suspend the licences of doctors involved.
It asked courts to dispose within six months all cases of violation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition on Sex-Selection) Act, 1994.
The apex court said that although the Centre and most of the states and Union territories had formed supervisory boards, advisory committees and the like under the act, their functioning had been far from satisfactory.
“The mushrooming of various sonography centres, genetic clinics, genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, ultrasonic clinics (and) imaging centres in almost all parts of the country calls for more vigil and attention by the authorities,” the bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.
“But unfortunately, their functioning is not being properly monitored or supervised by the authorities under the act... (and attempts are not being made) to find out whether they are misusing the prenatal diagnostic techniques for determination of sex of foetus leading to foeticide.”
The court added: “We have gone through the chart as well as the data made available by various states, which depict a sorry and an alarming state of affairs. Lack of proper supervision and effective implementation of the act by various states (is) clearly demonstrated by the details made available to this court.
“Seldom, the ultrasound machines used for such sex determination... are seized and, even if seized, they are released to the violators of the law only to repeat the crime. Hardly few cases end in conviction.
“Cases booked under the act are pending disposal for several years in many courts in the country and 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 of the law.”
The order came on a PIL filed by the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab, an NGO, which complained of widespread female foeticides in the country, particularly the northern states.
The court agreed but attempted to remove any misconception that the practice was confined to the backward and uneducated.
“Unfortunately, facts reveal that perpetrators of the crime also belong to the educated middle class and often they do not perceive the gravity of the crime,” it said.
The court dwelt on some of the social consequences of female foeticide too.
“The increasing imbalance between men and women leads to increased crime against women, trafficking, sexual assault, polygamy, etc,” it said.