Court Derides Government's Helplessness to Curb Online Pre-Natal Test Ads

Court Derides Government's Helplessness to Curb Online Pre-Natal Test Ads
The Supreme Court Thursday scolded the government for showing helplessness in curbing the advertisement on pre-natal tests that violate the statutory provisions prohibiting them, on Internet search engines like Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft.

Advertisements for sex determination tests are prohibited under Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

The affidavit said: "The pre-natal sex determination is an offence in India under PC & PNDT Act. However, it may not be an offence in other countries. The information published on the websites is generally aimed at for wider, world wide dissemination and caters to the needs to many countries and may not be for the Indian citizens."

"Also, most of these websites are hosted outside the country. Blocking of such sites advertising pre-natal sex determination may not be feasible due to their hosting outside the country," the government affidavit said..

"Moreover, some of the websites provide good content for medical education and therefore blocking of such websites may not be desirable," the affidavit said.

In response, a bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit in their order said: "As we understand from the affidavit, it reflects a kind of helplessness. That apart, we do not appreciate the manner in which the stand has been expressed in paragraph (s) of the counter affidavit."

The court also sought to know if this was the view of the officer who has filed the affidavit or the position of the government.

"In our considered opinion, an effort has to be made to see that nothing contrary to laws of this country are advertised or shown on these websites," the court said asking Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to assist the court in the matter.

The court said that Ranjit Kumar would in turn be assisted by a competent officer from the department of information technology, as it involved technical issues.

The court order came as senior counsel Sanjay Parikh told the court that despite the legal prohibition, Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft were still getting things advertised in violation of the provisions of the act

Parikh, who appeared for the petitioner Sabu Mathew George, also told the court that the ministries and departments concerned of the central government have to function harmoniously to ensure that statutory provisions are not violated as it has a far-reaching adverse consequences for the male-female ratio in the country.

He told the court that in US, violation of domestic laws was not accepted by the government and Google entered into agreement not to violate American domestic laws.

Parikh also said that the IT Act, 2000 fully covers the question of jurisdiction even if the search engine was located outside the country.

The counsel for Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft contended that their websites do not violate the laws of India, but as they provide a corridor, they do not have any control. However, the three were given a week's time to file their reply.

The matter will come up for hearing December 15.

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