According to health activists, of the 150 cases filed against doctors last year for conducting illegal sex selection tests on unborn children, 35 ended in acquittals on technical grounds.
Absenteeism and lack of technical knowledge on part of prosecutors are the main factors for the acquittals, said Varsha Deshpande, founder of the ‘Lek Laadki Abhiyan,’ which conducts sting operations on errant doctors.
On Thursday, the Bombay high court, while hearing a public interest litigation, observed that prosecutors must not remain absent in cases related to this issue. “Prosecutors not only remain absent but also keep mum in the courts. The directorate of prosecution and health department must take action against the absent prosecutors,” Deshpande added.
Activists also said alleged that prosecutors remain absent to help the accused and the accused often tamper with the evidence every time an adjournment is sought. “Regarding sex selection cases, we need fast track courts with efficient and immediate recording of evidence. The trials must be time bound,” said Kamayani Bal, lawyer and activist.
Lawyers said there is a shortage of prosecutors at the magistrate’s court level, where cases under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) (PCPNDT) Act are tried.
“Around 400 contractual prosecutors are not trained and there is shortage of judicial officers,” said Uday Warunjikar, lawyer and special public prosecutor who argued and won convictions in six such cases last year.
“Earlier there was confusion about who would conduct these cases but now it is clear that even if it is a private complaint the case is represented by the state. All this affected cases earlier.
Every prosecutor should be trained to understand the Act.”
“Earlier it was worse, with prosecutors seeking adjournments and remaining absent. But with increasing pressure from international agencies and local activists things are improving,” said Vibhuti Patel, women’s rights activist.