Inexperienced lawyers losing cases booked under PCPNDT Act: NGOs
Of 158 cases related to illegal sex determination filed in state last year, conviction took place only in 18
UNTRAINED and inexperienced public prosecutors are responsible for the low conviction rate in cases booked under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, allege NGOs working to curb female foeticide and sex determination tests.
Earlier, the city bureau of State Family Welfare Department (SFWD) agreed to give training to public prosecutors, but is not yet decided about it even though the year is coming to an end. The SFWD confirmed that 158 cases were filed last year in the state under the PCPNDT Act, but only in four out of 47 cases that were heard were the guilty awarded rigorous imprisonment and fined. In 14 cases, a penalty was slapped on the offenders.
The guilty had been booked for various offences such as advertising about sex determination tests and not maintaining records in their respective hospitals. Overall, conviction took place only in 18 cases last year in the state.
"The state government in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund has taken up the massive task of training judges about this act. Public prosecutors should also be given the same training, which will be useful while fighting the case for those (female foetus) who can't defend themselves in court," said Varsha Deshpande, founder of Satara-based NGO Lek Laadki.
She said that when cases are filed against the offenders, the progress till conviction is slow and majority of the cases are lost by the public prosecutors. "Our NGO has done as many as 35 sting operations in various hospitals of the state where sex determination practices were rampant," Deshpande said.
Kiran Moghe, president of All India Democratic Women Association, said: "Only trained public prosecutors are not enough, they should be experienced too." Moghe blamed the state government for its unwillingness to file cases against those involved in such illegal activities.
In the last 10 years, only in three cases the guilty were awarded both rigorous imprisonment and fine after they were caught red-handed carrying out pre-natal sex determination tests in sting operations. They were in Palwal district of Haryana in 2006, in Karad taluka of Satara and most recently in Pusegaon, Satara, where a doctor was awarded three years rigorous imprisonment and slapped with a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh, which is the harshest punishment till date.
A case can be registered against doctors for performing a test and revealing the sex of the foetus to the mother and also for not putting up notices that sex determination tests are illegal, not filling the mandatory F-form and not maintaining records.