Following allegations that actor Shahrukh Khan conducted sex-determination test for his third child,the Maharashtra government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have decided to crackdown on genetic counselling centres across Mumbai and the state. A report is expected soon.
At such centres,genetic counselling informs parents regarding the risks of inherited disorders that unborn children are exposed to. Families are advised about the consequences and nature of disorder,probability of developing or transmitting it,and options open to them.
Like the crackdown on PCPNDT (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) centres across the state,it is time for us to take a serious view of genetic counselling centres and their activities. I have informed the state health agencies and we will soon begin action, said Jayant Kumar Banthia,Chief Secretary,Maharashtra.
Manisha Mhaiskar,Additional Municipal Commissioner,in-charge of the public health department in BMC,said that an inspection of all such clinics will begin soon. The Shahrukh Khan-sex determination issue has brought out a larger point of streamlining IVF and genetic counselling clinics in the city. The law mandates that the BMC inspect these centres. We will start the exercise soon. Since most of our doctors are directed towards controlling monsoon-related diseases,we will have to now designate doctors for conducting this inspection, she said.
The initiative comes after activist Varsha Deshpande met Banthia and Mhaiskar and served a legal notice to the state demanding action against the actor and genetic counselling centres for breaking the law against female foeticide.
Deshpande,who is supported by NGOs such as Laadli and the Indian Radiologists Association,alleged there were over 50 genetic clinics in Mumbai region and over 150 across the state conducting sex-determination. We have served the state a legal notice under section 21(B) of the PCPNDT Act and a response according to law should be provided within 15 days. If they fail to do so,we will move a private criminal case against the government and the centres. There are many genetic counselling centres and IVF centres in big private hospitals where illegal sex determination is carried out regularly all patrons of these clinics. be it for surrogacy or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF),must report to the state of their visit within five days of the next month of their prior visit according to the Act, said Deshpande. She also petitioned the authorities to refrain from discriminating between Shahrukh Khan and common citizens. We have told the authorities to not discriminate between superstars and citizens. Sex determination is a very serious issue. The government is now going to question the sources who gave out such information to newspapers in the first place and take appropriate action, said Deshpande.
Mhaiskar said the civic body will take action once the confusion over jurisdiction is cleared. At present,it is a problem of jurisdiction. We do not have the facts on the case whether Shahrukh Khan has conducted a sex-determination test in Mumbai or in any other place. If it is found that he did conduct the test here then appropriate action will be taken, said the Additional Municipal Commissioner.