SC irate at sex determination ads on search engines

06 Jul 2016


The Supreme Court on Tuesday accused internet giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo of attempting to intentionally defy its orders aimed at putting an end to sex determination tests and female foeticide across the country.

A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra directed the Narendra Modi-led Union government to take urgent steps to stop the search engine trio from hosting advertisements of kits for foetal gender determination, and displaying the addresses of foreign clinics that provide assistance in the test, which is an offence in India.

As per latest estimates, around five lakh female foetuses are aborted annually. According to UNICEF, India has lost over two crore girls since 2007 to female foeticide. Since 1991, 80 per cent of Indian districts have recorded an increasingly male sex ratio.

"Call your technical people. They (search engines) need to be controlled. They are violating the laws of India. It seems that they do not have any respect for the law of this country," an angry Justice Misra told Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar.

"There can be no dispute that the respondent Google, Microsoft and Yahoo cannot put anything on their search engines that violates the law of the country," said the bench.

The SC asked Kumar to instruct the government to hold a meeting of technical experts of the government with the internet search engines within a week and made it clear that "nothing shall be there on the search engines that will violate the law of this country".

The apex court was acting on a petition filed by Sabu Mathew George, who is a member of the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee set up by the SC in 2003 to inspect and report on the implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

The plea said such advertisements flooded the internet after the passage of the PNDT Act, which came into force in 1994 to crack down on female foeticide, and banned the publication of such ads in the print media.

Section 22 of the new PNDT Act makes any form of advertisement of pre-conception and pre-natal sex determination punishable with maximum term of three years.

The group coordinator, Cyber Laws Formulation and Enforcement Division of the Information Technology Department, had in its affidavit said it would be difficult to block these websites as they were hosted outside the country and provided good content for medical education.

The bench, however, rejected the argument, saying "as we understand, the affidavit reflects a kind of helplessness".

The websites on their part had earlier contended they do not violate the laws of India."We only provide a corridor and do not have any control over the contents," they said.


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