Supreme Court pulls up Internet giants over sex determination ads

The court was hearing a petition by Sabu Mathew George, a doctor, who is seeking the apex court's intervention in view of the falling sex ratio in the country.

Published: 16th February 2017 10:19 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th February 2017 05:44 AM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court | File Photo

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over the declining girl child ratio, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed search engines Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to set up in-house expert bodies to ensure deletion of materials which go against Indian laws prohibiting pre-natal sex determination.

However, the apex court assured the Indian arms of the multinational cyber giants that it would not initiate any contempt proceedings against them as the idea was to make them “responsive” to local laws and concerns.

A Bench of justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi said in case of any doubt, the in-house expert bodies of these firms may communicate with the nodal agency appointed by the Centre for guidance and necessary action.

“We reiterate our directions dated September 19, 2016, and further add that respondents number 3 to 5 (Google India Pvt Ltd, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt Ltd) shall appoint an in-house expert body which shall take steps if any words or key words that are shown on Internet and which has the potential to go counter to section 22 of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, shall be deleted forthwith,” said the Bench.

Section 22 of the PCPNDT Act pertains to prohibition of advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and punishment for contravention. 

“That apart, the in-house expert body shall on its own understanding delete anything which violates section 22 of the Act and in case there is any doubt, they can communicate with the nodal agency appointed by the Union of India and thereafter they will be guided by the nodal agency,” the court said.

“The whole problem is that they (search engines) do not have respect for the law of the country,” the bench observed during the hearing and made it clear that search engines will have to block all such materials which, by any means, help in sex determining of foetus and runs counter to the law.

Google India said it obeyed the court’s directions.
“We have always been compliant and are supportive of removing paid content based on terms linked to gender selection tests.

We have taken additional action to disable auto-complete predictions for relevant terms on our site and show a warning that tells users (that) pre-natal gender screening or testing is illegal in India,” the firm said in its statement.   

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