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Health department to challenge acquittals for sex determination

Claiming that many offenders who have violated the anti-sex determination act are not convicted owing to lack of evidence or improper observance of legal procedures; the department is now planning to re-examine and challenge verdicts meted out in 45 cases

The shockingly skewed sex ratio in Maharashtra has made the state government jump to a more stringent implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act.


Representation pic

In an attempt to improve the poor conviction rate of cases related to violation of the act, the State Health department has now decided to file appeals in the many cases in which errant ultrasound centres in the state were acquitted or dismissed by the court earlier.

The Health Department has decided to take a second, closer look at 45-odd cases in which the courts had either acquitted or dismissed the sonography centres who allegedly violated the act. "We are studying each case in detail, and five cases are already fit for appeal. The department is very serious about the implementation of the act, and we are taking all possible measure to improve the sex ratio," said Dr Uddhao Gawande, Deputy Director, state health department.

After the census figures were revealed last year, the government had asked authorities, including the BMC, to survey all ultrasound clinics and check whether the act was being implemented.

A few months back, the state had even requested the courts to examine cases regarding PC-PNDT violation on an urgent basis.

Advocate Varsha Deshpande, founder of Satara-based NGO Lek Laadki, said, "Besides filing appeals, it needs to be examined why the acquittals or dismissals took place. Who is to blame -- the attitude of the judiciary or the prosecutor, or the authority that framed the complaint inadequately?"

Dr A L Sharda, Population First, NGO, said, "As per the act, as soon as the machine is seized, the appropriate authority has to file the case in the court, but that seldom happens. In fact most of the cases are disposed after extracting a fine, which is a violation of the law. The few cases that reach the court are also not filed properly. Lack of proper evidence is another factor."

Since the inception of the PC-PNDT Act, a total of 154 criminal cases have been filed against
different sonography centres in the state.

New website for F-forms
The government has finally set up its own website � www.pcpndtmumbai.org, onto which radiologists can upload the F form � a mandatory document � after conducting every obstetric ultrasound. Till a few days back, the forms were uploaded onto a private website. This move had raised the ire of radiologists. Taking note of their apprehensions, the civic body decided to shift the form filling interface to a www.pcpndtmumbai.org, a government website.

What is the PNDT Act?
The PNDT Act came into force in 1994, in order keep a check on the rampant incidence of female foeticide. The Act prohibits determination and disclosure of the sex of foetuses. It also prohibits any public notices advertising the pre-natal determination of sex, and sets down the quanta of punishment for its violation as three years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000. The PNDT Act had been amended keeping in mind the emerging technologies for selection of sex, before and after conception. These amendments came into effect from February 14, 2003, and the act in its present form is referred to as the PC-PNDT Act.

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