People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 17

April 28, 2013


Concern over Non-Implementation of PNDT Act


ON April 17, a delegation comprising AIDWA’s patron Ms Brinda Karat, AIDWA general secretary Ms Sudha Sundararaman and PNDT activist Dr Sabu George met the union health secretary and submitted to him a petition highlighting the poor implementation of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act 1994 (PNDT Act), in a situation where the child sex ratios are falling to alarmingly low levels in many states. They stressed the need for continuous, effective monitoring by the health ministry to ensure that appropriate legal action is taken against violators of the law, and pointed out that there had been no inspections over the past five months by the central team designated for this purpose. They expressed concern over the lack of follow up even where cases have been filed against erring doctors, as in Kushinagar (Uttar Pradesh). They also pointed out that advertisements promoting sex selection are being propagated regularly on the net by Google, and urged the health ministry to take stern measures against this blatant violation of the law.


The health secretary engaged in a productive discussion on the issues raised, and assured the delegation that these would be looked into with seriousness. He also responded positively to the suggestions emphasising regular meetings of the different committees that had been set up, and the importance of strengthening the monitoring mechanisms for the effective implementation of the PNDT Act.


The memorandum submitted on the occasion said that the organisations and individuals who have been involved with the PNDT Act from the initial stage feel concerned about the non-implementation of the act. It accused that there seemed to be a lack of priority in the attention required on the crime of sex determination tests and the consequent, continuously low sex ratios.


The memorandum expressed disappointment over that fact that the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee (NIMC) has made no visits to the states since the end of November. The NIMC was set up at the instance of the Supreme Court to enable the union to know the realities at the district level. In its March 4, 2013 judgement, the Supreme Court reiterated the earlier observations of May 4, 2001 judgement. However, despite the apex court’s repeated orders, the union government has not fulfilled its responsibility in monitoring and holding the states accountable.


During the last NIMC visit to Jharkhand on December 1, one of the members, Dr Sabu George, was virtually held hostage by a local clinic. Similarly, the NIMC visit to Hardoi last year was sabotaged. This team included CSB member Dr Neelam Singh. There have been earlier incidents of intimidation. The memorandum expressed the hope that the ministry would resume the NIMC visits as well as ensure that they are able to fulfil their task.


Drawing attention to the continued violations by advertisements promoting sex selection, the memorandum said one of the most glaring examples are those on internet, specifically Google. This has been repeatedly brought to the attention of the ministry and also raised in parliament, but the ministry has inexplicably chosen not to take any steps. (Attached to the memorandum was the proof of one such violation observed the previous night.) It is notable that the PNDT Act forbids all form of advertisements and came into force in January 1995, long before the Google company was created. The memorandum therefore urged the government to file, in the PIL filed by one of the delegation members in 2008 (341/2008), a fresh affidavit in the Supreme Court, firmly stating its opposition to such advertisements. Both in Europe and America the countries have always made internet companies like Google respect their domestic laws by penalising them with fines of hundreds of millions of dollars. Regrettably in India, however, internet companies get away, displaying contempt for Indian laws like PNDT.


Over the last two years there have been many changes in the rules under the PNDT Act while relatively little was paid attention to implementation. As some of these new rules were framed unilaterally by the ministry without widespread consultation, there have been many cases challenging the constitutionality of the PNDT in the constitutional courts around the country, which has helped violators. Following a request by the delegation members six months ago, the health ministry approached for the law ministry’s opinion for moving a transfer petition to bring all this to the Supreme Court. But this has not yet happened. This undue delay again only helps violators. The memorandum therefore asked for urgent action and information so that those interested may also follow up on the case.


Finally, the memorandum drew attention to a case of Kushinagar (UP) as an illustration of the non-implementation of the act. Over two months ago, the district magistrate of Kushinagar sealed over 20 clinics but no cases have so far been filed. The memorandum therefore asked the health secretary to get the details and ensure that cases are filed.