Plea to decriminalise PNDT Act rules rejected
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition seeking decriminalisation of rules and provisions of the Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, a law meant to curb female foeticide, saying that any dilution of rules will only defeat the purpose of the act.
A bench of justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran held that “dilution of the provisions of the Act or the rules would only defeat the purpose of the Act to prevent female foeticide, and relegate the right to life of a girl child under Article 21 of the Constitution, to a mere formality.
Refusing to read down the provision of the PNDT Act, the court said, “There are only 586 convictions out of 4202 cases registered even after 24 years of existence. It reflects the challenges being faced by the appropriate authority in implementing this social legislation.”
The petition challenging the provisions of the act was filed by the federation of obstetricians and gynaecologists. The federation, in its petition, had argued that “the license of members of noble charitable profession are being suspended on account of clerical errors/mistakes in paper work under the Act and the Rules made thereunder. On account of clerical errors in filling up of the forms, it would not be appropriate to inflict the punishment...” The federation also said “The Act fails to classify offence of actual sex determination vis-à-vis clerical error in maintenance of record. There is no gradation of offence.”
However, the government earlier this year asserted that “non-maintenance of records is not merely a technical or procedural lapse in the context of sex determination, it is the most significant piece of evidence for identifying the accused. It is further contended that clerical errors in Form ‘F’ fall under Section 4 of the Act and any deficiency or inaccuracy found therein shall amount to contravention of the provisions of Section 5 or 6 of the Act unless contrary is proved by the person conducting such ultrasonography.”
“It’s quite a formidable judgment,” said Sabu George, who works in the field of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. “If no detailed record is maintained then how could violations even be detected? I was the original petitioner in 2000 when the Supreme Court emphasised record keeping,” said George.