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Block pre-natal sex determination content, SC directs search engines

The top court orders firms to develop in-house methods to prohibit such content in India

Published: 20th September 2016 04:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th September 2016 04:17 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday directed search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to develop in-house methods to prohibit content pertaining to pre-natal sex determination in India.

“In our considered opinion, they (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft) are under obligation to see that the ‘doctrine of auto block’ is applied within a reasonable period of time. It is difficult to accept the submission that once it is brought to their notice, they will do the needful. It need not be over emphasised that it has to be an in-house procedure/method to be introduced by the companies, and we do direct,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan said.

The direction was followed by the submission of Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who informed the apex court that Indian units of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have agreed to follow the law on sex determination and would not allow any advertisement or publish any content on the issue on their respective search engines.

He told the bench that all the three companies have developed a technique called auto block which prohibits advertisements on sex determination the moment any advertisement or search is introduced in the online system.

“If any person tries to avail the corridors of these companies, this device shall be adopted so that no one can enter/see the said advertisement or message or anything that is prohibited under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, specifically under Section 22 of the said Act,” the bench said.

He also submitted a list of proposed 43 key words in respect of which, when commands are given, there would be “auto block” with a warning and nothing would be reflected on the internet.

Advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for petitioner Dr Sabu Mathew George, seeking court’s intervention in view of decreasing sex ratio, however contended that the Centre should take more steps to see that the law of the land was completely obeyed.

The bench directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to file an affidavit on the issue and posted the matter for hearing on November 16.

Earlier, the apex court had pulled up online search engines  Google, Yahoo and Microsoft for failing to check advertisements pertaining to pre-natal sex determination saying they patently violated law.

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. It had banned pre-natal sex determination.

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