The Supreme Court Tuesday said that while prohibiting the advertisement on sex determination techniques on the internet, care has to be taken that it does not interfere with the access to genuine information on the subject.
In a note of caution, the bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar said that “information graduates to knowledge and knowledge to wisdom” and care has to be taken that any prohibition may not also block academic information on the subject.
Noting that “curiosity was fundamental to right to know”, the bench said that there should be restrictions on the sex determination tests and there is a law governing the field. “We have to see, if in our prohibitory order, are we going to trench upon the right to know.”
However petitioner Sabu Mathew George told the court that they were not seeking any blocking of generic information but only seeking curbs on any direct or indirect promotion of sex-determination techniques.
Appearing for George, senior counsel Sanjay Parikh referred to the response filed by the Health and Family Welfare Ministry which has said that no restrictive meaning could be given to the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act’s section 22 which prohibits the Aadvertisement relating to pre-natal determination of sex and punishment for contravention.
However, three internet search engines – Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation (India) Ltd – reiterated their stand that they had no control over the material that was being uploaded as they have no “supervisory or editorial control” over it.
Senior counsel Abhishek Maniu Singhvi, appearing for Google, said that Section 22 should be construed in a restrictive sense and should not impinge upon Article 9(1)(a) – guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression.
Observing that the matter has to decided, the court directed next hearing on Thursday asking all the parties to file their written submissions along with convenience volumes.
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