As many as 1,800 judicial officers and 795 prosecutors have been sensitised in dealing effectively with cases under the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act.
Between 2009 and 2011, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Bombay High Court, State Health Systems Resource Centre, Maharashtra Legal Services Authority and the Public Health Department, supported the organising of judicial colloquia for capacity building of judicial officers and prosecutors on the causes and implications of declining child sex ratio and the PCPNDT Act for speedy redressal of cases.
Dr Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi, former joint director of the Maharashtra Judicial Academy, has compiled and analysed case laws on PCPNDT Act. A second edition of the same was released on International Women’s Day (March 8) this year. State health officials actively involved in the training programme conducted at the academy say the manual serves as “good reference” when dealing with cases under the Act.
As part of an effort to understand the reasons for such lax implementation of a crucial social legislation, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had jointly requested the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) to undertake a study to assess the status of implementation of the PCPNDT Act across 18 states in the country where skewed sex ratios are a major problem and urgent intervention is required.
The aim was that remedial measures to make the law more effective could be found through a more detailed understanding of various impediments. “Maharashtra then took the first step to address the issue of sensitisation of the judiciary and over the past couple of years has undertaken an exercise to enable judicial officers to interpret the law in a broader context — of how it impacts the social fabric of the country,” said Anuja Gulati, state programme officer, UNFPA.
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The story in numbers
After two decades of the implementation of the PCPNDT Act, a total of 481 cases have been filed against doctors in the state. Till March this year, 62 doctors have been convicted and 42 suspended by the Maharashtra Medical Council. In Pune, 23 cases are in the court while 14 doctors have been convicted. The state helpline and website have also helped in tracking cases related to gender-based sex selection. Till March this year, as many as 567 complaints were registered on the helpline and 33 sonography machines were sealed. Of 629 complaints registered on the website, action was taken by sealing 29 sonography machines, as per a state report. A recent study has also found that the PCPNDT Act can play an important role in addressing the alarming decline in sex ratio, change in attitudes and perceptions to accept daughters as equal to sons if there is a supporting legal and policy environment.