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Government readies 'keywords' to abort sex test advertisements

Two months after a fuming Supreme Court accused Google, Microsoft and Yahoo of attempting to intentionally defy its orders aimed at putting an end to prenatal rampant sex determination tests.

Harish V Nair | September 20, 2016 | Updated 12:24 IST
Government readies 'keywords' to abort sex test advertisements
Photo: Reuters

Two months after a fuming Supreme Court accused Google, Microsoft and Yahoo of attempting to intentionally defy its orders aimed at putting an end to prenatal rampant sex determination tests, Centre told judges it is coming up several words using which if a search is made on these sites, there will be an auto block with a warning and "nothing would be reflected".

To start with, the Information Technology ministry submitted a list of 42 phrases (having most commonly used words like 'gender selection', 'prenatal sex determination', 'baby gender selection', 'sex selection', etc.) before a bench headed by justice Dipak Misra and said they are coming up with several more.

On July 15, the court had directed Modi government to take urgent steps to stop the search engine trio from hosting advertisements of kits for foetal gender determination, and displaying the addresses of foreign clinics that provide assistance in the act, which is an offence in India.

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Solicitor General (SG) Ranjit Kumar said the government had to intervene as the companies failed to develop a technique to block the advertisements.

When the lawyers for the internet giants said they were agreeable to blocking if particular instances were brought to their attention, the bench told them "you are under obligation to see that the doctrine of auto block is applied within a reasonable period of time. It is difficult to accept the submission that once it is brought to their notice, they will do the needful".

As per latest estimates, around five lakh female foetus are aborted annually. According to UNICEF, India has lost over two crore girls since 2007 to female foeticide. Since 1991, 80 per cent Indian districts have recorded an increasingly masculine sex ratio."Call your technical people. They (search engines) need to be controlled.

They are violating the laws of India. They are flagrantly violating the law of the country and it seems they do not have any respect for the law of this country", an angry SC had told centre's lawyer.

"There can be no dispute that the respondent Google, Microsoft and Yahoo cannot put anything on their search engines that violate the law of the country", bench had said.

SC asked the SG to instruct the government to hold a meeting of technical experts of the government with that of the internet search engines within a week's time and made it clear that "nothing shall be there on the search engines that will violate the law of this country".

SC was acting on a petition filed by Sabu Mathew George who is a member of the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee set up by the SC in 2003 to inspect and report the implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994. The plea said such advertisements flooded the internet after the Pre-Natal Diagnostics Technique (PNDT) Act, which came into force in 1994 to crack down on female foeticide, and banned the publication of such ads in the print media.

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