The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the conduct of Centre, Delhi government and various states for not giving wide publicity to its directions on female foeticide for strict implementation of law prohibiting sex determination.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant slammed Bihar government over “low” prosecution rate of cases relating to female foeticide in the state after noting that no case has been registered after 2013.
The court noted that Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of sex selection) Act has been in operation from 1994 but only 159 cases have been instituted and 126 cases are pending since 2012-2013 in various courts in Bihar.
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“We cannot restrain ourselves from observing that had there been apposite awareness among the competent authorities in all possibility, the result would have been different.
“Lack of awareness is a known fact. In our considered opinion, the competent authorities who have been authorised under the Act to launch prosecution and also to see that the the Act is properly carried out and sex ratio is increased, are required to be given training,” the bench said.
The apex court asked the Chairman of the Bihar Judicial Academy of the Patna High Court to fix a time schedule for imparting the training.
“In our considered opinion, the cases under the 1994 Act should be dealt with in quite promptitude and the concerned courts have to treat the said cases with utmost primacy.
“In view of the aforesaid, we direct that the cases which are pending before the trial court shall positively be disposed of by end of October 2015,” the bench said.
During the proceedings, advocate Binu Tamta, appearing for the Centre, assured the bench that “appropriate” directions are issued to the authorities of All India Radio and Doordarshan functioning in various states to give wide publicity.
The court directed that the copy of the April 15 order be sent to the Principal Secretary, Health, and the Principal Secretary, Law, so that the order can be translated and be published in newspapers and broadcast by All India Radio and telecast by Doordarshan in an “appropriate” manner.
“We hope that by the next date of hearing, there would be substantial compliance…,” the bench said.
On April 15, the apex court had passed a slew of directions on the issue of female foeticide including the need to form a statutory board for strict implementation of law prohibiting sex determination.
Taking note of the facts, the bench had passed several directions for proper implementation of the Act which also mandates setting up of a State Board.
Asking authorities to act with strictness, the bench had said “the appropriate authority shall, as defined under Section 28 and is appointed under Section 17 of the 1994 Act, develop a system so that anyone, who comes to know of any illegality being committed under the 1994 Act by any person, can send the complaint/information to the said authority even anonimously so that it can take appropriate action.”
The court had noted that as per the provisions, the state or union territory Board should have eminent women activists from NGOs, gynaecologists, obstetricians and other medical experts as members but they should not have conflict of interest.
It had said that if the criminal cases are kept pending, it will give an impression that the provisions of the Act are not taken seriously and directed the trial magistrates, before whom such cases are pending, to finalize them by September 30.
Earlier, the court had rapped the Centre and others for being “sloppy” in checking female foeticide in the country, saying laws are not being implemented and everything is being left to fate.
It had directed the Centre and all state governments to give details of what action they have taken to implement PNDT Act that prohibits pre-natal sex determination.
The apex court had on March 4, 2013 directed the Centre and state governments to take quick and tough action against people indulging in female foeticide and passed a slew of directions for effective implementation of PNDT Act.
It had directed the governments to map all ultra-sonography clinics within three months and asked the lower courts to dispose all cases for violation of the Act within six months to bring the accused to book.
The court passed the order on a PIL by NGO Voluntary Health Association of Punjab urging it to intervene in the matter in view of decreasing number of girls-boys ratio in the country.