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Put import of embryos on hold: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday suggested to the government to put import of human embryos on hold as India has become an international hub for commercial surrogacy.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2015 10:08 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Wad has asked the SC to stay a government notification which allows import of human embryos for medical purposes.
Wad has asked the SC to stay a government notification which allows import of human embryos for medical purposes. (Mohd Zakir/HT Photo)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday suggested to the government to put import of human embryos on hold as India has become an international hub for commercial surrogacy.

Agreeing with the petitioner, advocate Jayashree Wad’s contention that surrogacy was at least a $445 million annual business, a bench of justice Ranjan Gogoi and justice NV Ramana said there should be a law to regulate the practice.

Wad has asked the SC to stay a government notification which allows import of human embryos for medical purposes.

Taking shelter under this notification, several doctors practise illegal surrogacy.

Giving time till October 28 to the Centre to spell out the measures it intends to take, the bench said it would be constrained to pass directions if the order wasn’t complied with.

“Then, till you enact the legislation confine the import of (human) embryo only for medical research and not surrogacy,” the bench told solicitor general Ranjit Kumar who argued a complete stay on the notification can lead to certain ramifications.

“Obviously, you are not supposed to permit trade in human embryo so long as there is no law. But it has become a burning issue which is now called surrogacy tourism. The fact is it is rampant,” the bench said.

Kumar told the court that a Bill to regulate commercial surrogacy was at a consultative stage and it may take three months before it is referred to the Union Cabinet.

He sought time to come back to the court to explain the government’s position on the twin issues of the intended legislation and if it would restrict the import of embryo only to medical research.

“Moral and ethical issued are involved. Just we are struggling to know what to do. It is the primary duty of legislature. Unfortunately there is no response from the government or legislation on the issue. Now a situation has arisen where we are issuing directions on all issues which are in the domain of the executive,” the court said.