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Sex determination: Supreme Court asks Centre, three search engines to meet

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud also directed that the meeting be held within six weeks from Wednesday and the suggestions of the petitioner be also considered.

tech Updated: Dec 13, 2017 21:18 IST
Press Trust of India, New Delhi
Television journalists set their cameras inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi.
Television journalists set their cameras inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi.(Reuters File)

The Supreme Court directed the Centre on Wednesday to hold a meeting with stakeholders like search engines Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, to find a solution to ensure that materials violating Indian laws prohibiting pre- natal sex determination are not hosted on websites.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also directed that the meeting be held within six weeks and the suggestions of the petitioner be also considered.

Sanjay Parikh, appearing for petitioner Sabu Mathew George, said search engines Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, were competent to remove materials on sex determination from the websites on their own. The contention was vehemently opposed by the counsel for the search engines.

The apex court, while disposing of the PIL, said the Centre, its nodal agency and experts “shall take steps so that mandate of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 are not violated”.

It directed the representatives of search engines shall also take part in the meeting which would endeavour to find a “holistic” solution to the problem of posting of such materials on websites which violate the PCPNDT Act.

“However, we make it clear that we have not expressed any opinion on merits,” the bench said, adding that the petitioner would be at liberty to file a fresh plea if he felt aggrieved in future.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said the nodal agency has been effectively dealing with complaints and getting them redressed with the help of search engines.

During hearing, senior lawyer A M Singhvi and advocate Anupam Lal Das, appearing for some search engines, said unless the URL address of websites hosting illegal materials on sex- determination was not brought to the notice of search engines, it is difficult to remove them.

Earlier, the government had informed the court that it has set up a nodal agency to redress complaints seeking deletion of materials violating Indian laws prohibiting pre- natal sex determination, from search engines and websites.

The Centre had said that besides taking action on complaints, the agency also kept tabs on websites to ensure that there was no information available in the virtual world on pre-natal sex determination.

Section 22 of the PCPNDT Act pertains to prohibition of advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and punishment for contravention.

The court was hearing a petition seeking the apex court’s intervention in view of the falling sex ratio in the country.

Earlier, the apex court had asked Google India Pvt Ltd, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt Ltd to appoint an in-house expert body to take steps to see that “if any word or key word that is shown on internet and which has the potential to go counter to section 22 of PCPNDT Act shall be deleted forthwith.”

It had also asked the Centre to set up a nodal agency to deal with complaints of violations of the law.

The PCPNDT Act was enacted to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. It had banned pre- natal sex determination.