Supreme Court Judgment- Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) v. Union of India 2003
The instant case pertains to the use of prenatal testing diagnostic testing or sex selection techniques. The rampant misuse of technology coupled with a highly primitive and patriarchal mindset, resulted in mass cases and incidents of female foeticide and infanticide. Thus the parliament in its wisdom brought a comprehensive which banned the use of techniques and medical testing which could find out about the sex of a foetus.
The underlying principle of this was to stop and prevent the rapid and widespread misuses of these techniques which were aimed at killing or ‘getting rid’ of a female foetus. Therefore the parliament brought the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994. Changes were later introduced and it was called The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 2003.
The act by way of its provisions placed a ban on any activity which would predict the sex of a foetus. However, it was realised that in practice there was only a law which had been laid down and there zero implementation of the same. The diagnostic and testing was still rampant and there was no effect of the law which had been made by the parliament.
In the population census of 2001, it was found out that the sex ratio had been badly affected even when some states were well off in comparison to other states and the major reason behind this was the rampant misuse of the pre-natal diagnostic techniques which the parliament had banned.
Centre for inquiry into health and allied services is a Non-Governmental Organisation which was involved in a lot of work for the betterment of people and they filed a petition before the Supreme Court for orders with regard to the implementation of the act done within the country.
The Apex Court in its order of 04.05.2001 (2001) 5 SCC 577, observed that it was highly unfortunate that female infanticide was prevalent in the country and developed medical science was being misused for unethical and immoral purposes. The Supreme Court ordered as follows:
Directions to the Central Government
- Create public awareness about the ills of prenatal diagnostics and female foeticide.
- Implement Rule 15 which provided that the advisory committee should meet regularly.
Orders for Central Supervisory Board (CSB)
- Ensure that meetings are conducted once in at least 6 months.
- Ensuring the reviewing and monitoring of the Act’s implementation.
- The CSB shall oversee that a report is furnished by the appropriate authorities of all the States and Union territories quarterly regarding the implementation and working of the Act;
- Examine the necessity to amend the Act with regard to the new technologies and problems;
- The CSB shall constitute medical bodies and associations for creating awareness and implementing the Act.
Orders to State Governments/UT Administrations
- To institute Appropriate Authorities at the district level and sub-district level;
- To institute Advisory Committees for aiding and advising the Appropriate Authority in carrying out its objectives and functions;
- To publish the details of the Appropriate Authorities in the print media and electronic media in the respective State/UT;
- To inform the public at large about the ills of the practices through advertisements in the print media and electronic media;
- To oversee that all the appropriate authorities of the State/UT submit quarterly returns to the CSB by providing a report with regard to the implementation of the Act.
Orders to the Appropriate Authorities
- To take action against any individual or anyone or anybody which makes advertisements which are in violation of section 22 of the Act;
- To take action against all bodies which have been specified in sec 3of the Act and also against persons which operate without a certificate of registration as per the Act.
- To furnish reports to the CSB with regard to the implementation and working of the Act.
The Act was subsequently amended in the year 2003 as earlier mentioned keeping in mind the directions issued by the Supreme Court.
The primary objective of the first petition by CEHAT NGO was to get the rampant misuse of the technology checked and bring to the judicial notice that clinics were running all around the country without any check in spite of a law and the second petition was to bring to highlight that the amended law of 2003 was poorly advertised and the previous orders of the court were not being complied with.
The Supreme Court asked the Central Government and all the State Governments to file their responses and most of them responded by saying that best efforts were being made to comply with orders of the Court. However, the Supreme Court was not satisfied with their reasoning’s and claims.
Thus the Supreme Court gave fresh directions in furtherance of its previous order which are as follows:
- For the effective implementation of the amended act, advertisements must be published and use of electronic media be also taken till people are educated that there is no difference between a male and female child.
- Publication of Quarterly reports which are submitted to the Supervisory Board by the appropriate authority.
- Maintaining of records of all meetings done by appropriate authorities.
- The National Monitoring and Inspection Committee for conducting inspections which was formed by the Central Government shall carry on its work for the effective implementation of the Act
- The reports of this committee shall also be sent to the Central Supervisory Board and State Supervisory Board for necessary actions.
- Information shall be made public so that the people have access to all the records maintained by the authorities.