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HC glare on sex test

Ranchi, July 16: Alarmed by high rates of prenatal sex determination and abortion among the state’s pregnant women, Jharkhand High Court initiated a suo motu PIL directing officiating chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty and health department’s principal secretary B.K. Tripathy to inform the bench about preventive steps taken by the government.

A division bench of Chief Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Amitav Kumar Gupta, taking note of media reports, initiated the PIL on July 14 on the high percentage of pregnant women opting for abortions. As many as 18.2 per cent of women opted for medical termination of their pregnancy, noted the court.

East Singhbhum topped the percentage of women who opted for abortions at 23.6 per cent. In Ranchi, 17 per cent pregnant women also did so.

The bench observed that provisions of Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 prohibit sex selection and that owners of ultrasound clinics who carry out this illegal business are liable to be punished with fines and prison terms.

The court directed the bureaucratic top brass to furnish details of genetic counselling centres in the state and whether they are registered or not.

The bench sought information from the state in two weeks’ time on whether licenses of clinics found guilty of indulging in prenatal sex determination have been cancelled.

Jharkhand’s sex ratio was 928 females to 1,000 males in 2011-12, the court noted.

Across India, experts have pointed out that a thinning female population is directly linked with sex-selective abortions, or killing female foetuses, as well as female infanticide.

Jharkhand’s low sex ratio has also been attributed to an increase in abortions of the female foetus after sex determination at ultrasound clinics. The reason for this surge in sex determination is also due to lack of raids on these clinics by the state health department and its nodal organisation Jharkhand Rural Health Mission Society since 2012.