The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the governments of Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan for their failure to effectively implement the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, 1994, which prohibits sex-determination tests.
A bench of justice KS Radhakrishnan and justice Dipak Misra observed that the declining sex ratio in these states was a matter of concern and that the authorities had failed to educate the people against female foeticide. "Why is there no awareness campaign? Why does gender inequality continue to exist? The statistics of 2012-13 show that much action hasn't taken place," the bench said after hearing the health secretaries of these states.
"People have a belief that if they don't have a male child, they will go to narak (hell)," the court said, asking "Where is this narak?"
On Punjab's poor record on checking sex determination, justice Misra said the state's affidavit was "well drafted", but "there is lethargy on the part of the police in enforcing the ban".
Haryana health secretary Navraj Sandhu told the court that the health department alone could not enforce the ban. Sandhu told the court that it was only through collective efforts of all stakeholders, including the police, education department, political leadership and society, that the problem of female foeticide could be dealt with. Describing it a problem of mindset, Sandhu said educated and well-to-do people in Haryana were going in for sex determination tests.
The court was alarmed to know that Bihar hadn't taken effective steps to initiate action against radiologists and doctors conducting illegal tests. The Bihar health secretary admitted that the state wasn't proactive on the issue as it was under the impression that only the northern states of India faced rampant female foeticide. The authorities woke up only after the 2011 census declared a drop in Bihar's sex ratio. However, the state continues to have a better child sex ratio (920 girls per 1,000 boys) than the national average (914).
"So, were you totally unaware of the existence of the Act?" the bench asked the officer. It also advised the health secretaries of other states to distribute pamphlets to create more awareness about the girl child. Quoting from a book, justice Misra said: "It is said that neurons in a female are more active. Therefore, they are wiser. Why don't you find out similar research to educate the people about the importance of the girl child?"
The court has reserved its order and hinted that it might lay down guidelines to make sure action against erring doctors was taken under provisions of the PNDT Act. It further said directions would also be passed to various courts where prosecutions against such medical practitioners were pending.
Adjourning the hearing, the court asked additional solicitor general Harin Raval to go through all affidavits filed by various states and suggest which was the better model to eliminate pre-natal sex determination tests.
With IANS inputs