Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft were on Wednesday asked to “delete” within 36 hours the advertisements, hosted by them, pertaining to pre-natal sex determination in India by the Supreme Court which directed the Centre to appoint a nodal agency to monitor the websites. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said that the nodal agency would inform these search engines about any such advertisements on the websites and Indian arms of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo would delete them within 36 hours.
“We direct the Union of India to constitute a nodal agency which would give advertisments on TV, radio and in newspapers….that if anybody comes across anything which identify a girl or a boy (at pre-natal stage), it should be brought to the notice of the nodal agency. “Once it is brought to the notice of the nodal agency, it shall inform the search engines and they, after receiving the information, are obliged to delete it within 36 hours and inform the nodal agency,” the bench said.
The apex court, which fixed the matter for further hearing on February 17 next year, said the “interim arrangement” would continue till the issue pertaining to advertisements relating to pre-natal sex determination was “debated” upon before it. During the hearing, the bench expressed concern over the declining sex ratio and said, “Whether one will have a boy or a girl, that kind of information is not necessary in India. The sex ratio is going down here and we are concerned about that.”
“We had passed an order recently on this. Whether you are making money or not we are not concerned with that. The 1994 (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act says nobody shall propagate (pre-natal sex determination) and if anyone is propagating, it has to be stopped,” it said. “Whatever is prohibited under the Act cannot go through it (websites),” the bench observed, adding, “If anyone comes across anything which offends or has an impact on the sex ratio in India, it shall be removed by the search engines within 36 hours.”
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was appearing for Google India Pvt Ltd, said they have complied with the earlier order passed by the apex court in the matter and they have already taken steps to block any such advertisements. The counsel appearing for the other search engines also said that they have taken steps to comply with the provisions of the Act. However, they contended that the matter requires further debate.