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Supreme Court Slams Google, Yahoo, Microsoft For Promoting Gender Tests; Orders Immediate Ban On Such Ads

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Gender Prediction Test

Female foeticide is a serious problem in India; and as per various estimates, around 1 crore female foetuses have been illegally aborted in India since 1990s and 500,000 such cases are witnessed every year.

Due to illegal abortion of female child, India’s sex ratio is right now among the most misbalanced in the entire world. Compared to 976 females for every 1000 males in 1968, it is now down to 918 / 1000 in 2015.

Clinics which provide such gender tests carry abortions of female foeticide in illegal manner, and it seems search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing are allowing such ultrasound centres & clinics to advertise their illegal services. Sex determination tests are banned in India, and Supreme Court has taken a serious note of this issue.

While hearing a petition regarding this matter, the apex court has scolded these search engines for encouraging and promoting such gender test advertisements, and have ordered them to immediately ban them.

Search engines namely Google, Bing and Yahoo were scolded by the Supreme Court, as the panel of Judges said, “Can these search engines continue to violate the law? Is there nothing that can be done to completely stop them? Google, Microsoft, Yahoo can’t continue doing the illegal activity in the name of being an intermediary,”

In their defense, Google and Microsoft said that blocking or banning content regarding illegal abortions and gender tests may not be feasible. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, who was representing Google India said that advertisements can be banned, but articles, research papers and case studies appearing in their search results cannot be blocked. Whereas Microsoft argued that it would be “unfair and illegal” and “technically unfeasible” to block all such content.

Dismissing the arguments of these search engines, panel consisting of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C Pant ordered: “As an interim measure, it is directed, the respondents, namely, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft shall not advertise or sponsor any advertisement which would violate section 22 of the PCPNDT Act, 1994.”

The case came up after one Sabu Mathew George files a PIL in Supreme Court, seeking their intervention in banning advertisements of such clinics which conducts illegal gender tests.

Section 22 of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 (PCPNDT) clears states: “No person, organization, Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic, including clinic, laboratory or centre having ultrasound machine or imaging machine or scanner or any other technology capable of undertaking determination of sex of foetus or sex selection shall issue, publish, distribute, communicate or cause to be issued, published, distributed or communicated any advertisement, in any form, including internet, regarding facilities of pre-natal determination of sex or sex selection before conception available at such centre, laboratory, clinic or at any other place.”

Violation of this act can invite prison term of 3 years. The apex court had passed an order in January asking search engines to block such advertisements on their platforms, and even asked them to update their policy and terms and conditions regarding this subject.

Next hearing in this matter will commence on July 25th.

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