Life for Dr Mitu Khurana, 32, has not been easy. One of the few women in India who has raised her voice against female foeticide, she not only indicted her in-laws and her husband but also the hospital concerned, under the Preconception and Pre Natal Diagnostic and Testing (PC&PNDT) Act, 1994.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has finally decided to look into the case that grabbed the attention of the media and the nation. Her repeated complaints to the District and State Appropriate Authority (a body where complaints in violation to the PC&PNDT Act can be filed) continue to remain unheeded. And now that she has not received a reply to her complaint from the State Appropriate Authority, she has approached the Central Appropriate Authority.
Mitu got married to Dr Kamal Khurana in 2004. The very next year, she conceived twins. Mitu claims that her in-laws and husband, in collusion with the hospital authorities, deceived her into getting an ultrasound test done. “They gave me a cake to eat despite knowing that I am allergic to egg. I started having pain in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting. The next day I was taken to the Jaipur Golden Hospital (a prominent facility in North West Delhi) where the doctor asked me to get a kidney ureter bladder ultrasound. They got the test done by deception. I was heavily sedated and did not realise what was happening,” she alleges. Subsequently, she says, her life became a living hell, as her in-laws started pressurising her to get an abortion done because they did not want girls. Finally, tired of the harassment, she decided to go back to her parental home.
It’s been more than five months since she filed a complaint but no proper action has been taken so far. Mitu filed a complaint in April this year with the Chief District Medical Officer, North West Delhi. When that led to no action, she filed an application under Right to Information Act 2005. She, subsequently, got a reply stating that a raid was conducted at the Jaipur Golden Hospital and that no ‘Form F’ was found. According to the PC&PNDT Act, it is through Form F that the mandatory record is maintained by every genetic clinic, with respect to each woman subjected to any pre-natal diagnostic procedure.
Meanwhile, the PC&PNDT authorities continue to pass the buck. Dr A.K. Jaina, of the State Appropriate Appellate Authority, New Delhi says, “This case comes under the purview of the district appropriate authority. We cannot do much.” There is talk of getting the case transferred – it was filed under the PC&PNDT Act, which comes under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – to the Women and Child Ministry. However, the status of that initiative is also not known.
Mitu’s case has received support from all over India. Professor Bijay Laxmi Nanda, who teaches at Miranda House, Delhi University, and is coordinator, Campaign Against Female Foeticide, says, “Her case is very unique. She’s one of the few women I am aware of who has managed to save both her daughters and now filed a case against her in-laws and the hospital.” Many women’s activists including ’50 million missing girls’, a group fighting against female feoticide, have extended their support to Mitu.
Renny Jacob, Member, DCW, says, “Our lawyers are going through the documents. DCW has sent a letter to the Chief Medical Officer of the State Appropriate Authority. We are waiting for his response.” She adds, “Mitu has not got justice till date. The doctors and the hospital concerned should be punished. We are not interested in her issues of marital discord. However, we would like to see that justice is given to her.” According to Jacob, the medical fraternity usually observes a code of silence in cases like these. “Doctors usually don’t go against the doctors,” she says.
Mitu’s case holds a mirror to a fact quite evident in Delhi: it has one of the lowest female sex ratios in the country. According to a recent survey by Centre for Social Research, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation, the male-female sex ratio in areas of the Capital like Punjabi Bagh (West Delhi) and Najafgarh (South West Delhi) has plumbed new depths and the girl child is virtually shunned.
The PC&PNDT authorities have cited several reasons for the difficulties in the implementation of the Act. According to the 2006 annual report by the authorities, the collusion between the people demanding the illegal service of sex determination and the service providers is so strong that it is difficult to pin down the offender.
Right now Mitu stays with her parents who are also supporting her financially. “I am able to fight this battle only because of my parents. This can happen to anyone. I am a doctor from an educated family. If I can go through such an experience, anyone can.” When contacted, Mitu’s husband, Kamal, had only this to say, “Our case is in the Tis Hazari mediation centre. I do not wish to comment.”
According to the law, sex determination is banned under the PC&PNDT Act. Medical practitioners and gynaecologists conducting the test and aborting the female foetus can be prosecuted under this Act and the offence is non-bailable. The law may be stringent, but when enforcers continue to look the other way, it makes very little difference.
Clinics have to maintain an account of every woman who has gone through the pre-natal diagnostic procedure as specified in ‘Form F’ of the PC&PNDT Act
When to complain?
1. If an advertisement to provide the services of any kind of sex selection (predetermining?) is published.
2. If a clinic using the pre-conception and pre natal diagnostic techniques is not registered under the PC&PNDT Act. The registration certificate needs to be displayed publicly.
3. If any person has got sex selection of his or her unborn child done.
4. If any medical professional has communicated the sex of unborn child to his patient.
5. If a clinic registered under the PC&PNDT Act has not maintained the mandatory records under the Act. In case of an ultrasound scan, it is Form F that has a consent form from the patient declaring that she has not detected the sex of her unborn child and medical professional affirmation that the scan was not done for sex selection.
6. If any person is compelling a pregnant women to under go sex selection.
7. If anybody is assisting or facilitating the process of sex selection.
How to complain?
A complainant can approach the designated Appropriate Authority of the State or District or sub district. The Appropriate Authority at the State level is a high ranking health department official above the rank of Joint Director of Health and Family Welfare. But there are also officials at local level in rural and urban areas who can be approached – the civil surgeon or the chief medical officer at the district level; the chief health officer or a ward health officer in a city; and the medical superintendent. A written complaint has to be made to the Appropriate Authority (AA), which has to acknowledge receipt. If the AA takes no action within 15 days, the complainant can go to Court with the acknowledgment receipt. Alternatively, the complainant can also approach a social organisation like a NGO working on women’s rights issues in the area or state.