SC directs search engines to remove ads related to pre-natal sex determination

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The Supreme Court has issued a strict directive to all online search engines like Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft India to remove advertisements related to the pre-natal sex determination. The Court issued this directive while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Sabu Mathew George in 2008. Holding such advertisements violative of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 2003, the petition has prayed for the blocking of advertisements relating to pre-natal sex determination.

Key facts

  • The Supreme Court has asked the search engines to remove illegal information and advertisements within 36 hours of receiving a complaint.
  • Nodal Agency: The Court has directed the central government to set up a nodal agency to keep a tab on the keywords used for such purposes on the search engines. This will help to enable a system of ‘auto-block’ blocking such illegal information. The nodal agency on receiving a complaint shall intimate the search engines to delete the illegal information within 36 hours and inform it.
  • The Court has condemned the online search engines for patently violating Indian law. The Court has asked the search engines to develop an in-house method to prohibit such illegal content as they are under an obligation to do so.

Practice of sex determination

  • Sex determination is illegally practiced in many parts of the country. As a consequence, the data provided by the UN shows that India’s child sex ratio has dropped from 964 in 1971 to 918 in 2011. As per the Census 2011 data, India’s child sex ratio (0-6 years) is 914, which is the lowest since independence.
  • The practice of sex determination is found to be worse in urban areas. For instance, the National Capital Region has one of the lowest child sex ratios with 871 girls born for every 1,000 boys.

 

PCPNDT Act 2003

The act not only prohibits determination and disclosure of the sex of the foetus but also bans advertisements related to preconception and prenatal determination of sex.  The main aim of the act is to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in the country. All the technologies of sex determination, including the new chromosome separation technique, comes under the ambit of the Act. In addition, the act regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques such as ultrasound and amniocentesis.

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