The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court steps in to shield girl child

New Delhi, Sept. 10: The Supreme Court today directed the Centre and all state governments to monitor the activities of ultrasound clinics to prevent female foeticide.

A division bench of Justices M.B. Shah and Ashok Bhan said the governments should also ensure effective implementation of amendments to the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulations and Prevention of Misuse) Act and disposed of the matter.

A batch of petitions by the Centre for Education on Health and Allied Themes and Dr Sabu George had sought directives to the Centre and states to ensure implementation of the act.

The judges said the girl child still faces discrimination and with the prevalence of the dowry system and other “anti-woman” practices, the governments should come forward to wipe out the menace. “With no change in the mindset about females in Indian society, the sex-determination tests add to the adverse situation,” the bench said. It put the onus on the governments to change the mindset of the society in which the courts have no role to play.

Instead of using the technology for medical advancement, the judges pointed out, ultrasound was being used to “illegally abort or remove female foetus” in the womb itself, resulting in abnormal “male-female ratio”.

The petitioners contended that the country’s sex ratio, as per the 2001 census, “was dropping alarmingly” due to the unchecked practice of determining the gender of the foetus.

The court also directed the governments to take stringent action against unauthorised ultrasound clinics and seize their ultrasound machines.

The amended Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act prohibits “sex selection”. Section 3A of the act says: “No person, including a specialist or a team of specialists in the field of infertility, shall conduct or cause to be conducted or aid in conducting by himself or by any other person sex selection on a woman or a man or on both or on any tissue, embryo, conceptus, fluid or gametes derived from either or both of them.”

Section 3B stipulates that “no person shall sell any ultrasound machine or imaging machine or scanner or any other equipment capable of detecting the sex of foetus to any genetic counselling centre, genetic laboratory, genetic clinic or any other person not registered in the act”.

The act also provides for setting up of district-level advisory committees before whom complaints can be filed against illegal use of ultrasound machines. However, the Supreme Court observed that such committees are yet to be formed in several states.

Recalling its earlier directive that the Central Supervisory Board should meet every six months to review and monitor the implementation of the act, the court directed the Centre and states to submit quarterly review reports to the board.

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