IN THE HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA AT CHANDIGARH
Civil Writ Petition No.17964 of 2007
Date of decision: 31st July, 2009
Court on its own motion Petitioner Versus State of Punjab and others Respondents
CORAM: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE T.S. THAKUR HOB’BLE MR. JUSTICE KANWALJIT SINGH AHLUWALIA
Present: Mr. Onkar Singh Batalvi, Advocate for Union of India. Mr. Randhir Singh, Additional Advocate General Haryana. Mr. Rupinder Khosla, Additional Advocate General Punjab.
Notes: 1. Whether reporters of local newspapers may be allowed to see the judgment?
2. To be referred to the reporters or not?
3. Whether the judgment should be reported in the Digest?
KANWALJIT SINGH AHLUWALIA, J.
Alarmed by declining girl child sex ratio in this part of the country and to curb social menace of female foeticide, this Court had taken cognizance of a newspaper report published in Hindustan Times, Chandigarh on November 17, 2007 under the caption “Efforts to improve sex ratio in for a huge blow” “Sex-determination kits enter state” and had issued suo-motu notice to States of Punjab, Haryana and Union of India. In response thereto, Director, Health Service, Family Welfare, Punjab filed his affidavit and appended affidavits of the Civil Surgeons posted at all Districts falling within the State of Punjab to say that various Civil Writ Petition No. 17964 of 2007 2 teams were constituted and surprise inspections/raids were undertaken and that no sex determination kits (hereinafter referred to as ‘the kits’) were available in the State of Punjab. The Chairperson of the State Appropriate Authority constituted under Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (hereinafter referred to as ‘PNDT Act’) cum Director General, Health Services, Haryana submitted a status- report by way of an affidavit and stated therein that strict instructions were issued to concerned officers to keep a strict vigil on use of baby gender determination kits in all the districts. It was further submitted that all Civil Surgeons posted in the districts of State of Haryana reported that kits are neither used nor available in the local market in the respective districts. It was further stated that import of such kits is not permitted in India by Drug Controller General, India. A detailed affidavit was filed by the Director (PNDT), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India. In the affidavit so filed, it was stated that the department of the deponent is concerned with the falling girl child sex ratio and have noticed the following figures which have emerged in the census 2001: “Child sex ratio for the age group of 0-6 years in 2001 is 927 girls per thousand boys against 945 recorded in 1991 Census. The encouraging trend in the sex ratio during 1991- 2000 was marred by the decline of 18 points in the sex ratio of children aged 6 years or below.” Having spelt its concern, various effective steps taken by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India have also been conveyed in the affidavit. It has been stated that PNDT Act and its rules have been amended and the Act has been made more comprehensive Civil Writ Petition No. 17964 of 2007 3 and the enforcement authorities have been empowered with the necessary teeth. It was further stated that a Central Supervisory Board has been constituted to monitor falling child sex ratio and periodical meetings are being held under the chairpersonship of Minister of Health and Family Welfare. It was averred that necessary programme to educate, generate awareness and sensitize public opinion makers is being carried and necessary expenses for the same are being provided and incurred. It has been further mentioned that State Governments have been funded through Rural Child Health Programme for implementation plan 2007-08 drawn for implementation of various activities under the PNDT Act and to give incentive to birth of girl child. The affidavit also provides information that sensitization on sex ratio issue has been made part of the curriculum for ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) under National Rural Health Mission scheme. Furthermore, a National Inspection and Monitoring Committee has been constituted. The affidavit further states that National Support and Monitoring Cell consisting of social scientists to evolve mechanism that the actual wrong doers are apprehended, is active. Furthermore, an annual report on the implementation of PNDT Act is published and a web- site to inform the public about the information and activities undertaken by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare regarding PNDT Act is going to be launched separately. But till now, this information is available on the web-site of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. A toll-free telephone under the PNDT Division of the Ministry, to lodge complaints and assess information, is being installed and awareness programme under the scheme “Save the Girl Child Campaign” is being propagated. Regarding gender testing kits, it has been stated that Reliance India Mobile was carrying a programme “Plan a Baby”, under which tips were given to enhance the probability of bearing a mail child. On the issue taken up by Civil Writ Petition No. 17964 of 2007 4 the Ministry, such programme has been discontinued by the mobile service provider. A perusal of the affidavit reveals that PNDT Wing of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is fully conscious regarding availability of Sex Determination Kits in the grey market and through website channels and has drawn a comprehensive plan to block all the sources, from which such kits can be available. The affidavit notices that popular internet search engine ‘Google’ was providing link to sources of websites like ‘www.GenSelect.com, http://www.4-gender-selection.com’, which offer Sex Determination Kits for small fee. The affidavit states that all the websites offering the facilities were hosted by private organizations from overseas countries and in order to block the offending websites, Union Secretary, Health and Family Welfare has requested the Secretary Home to prevail upon the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT In). The Cabinet Secretariat was also approached to convene a meeting of all the concerned Secretaries. Union Department of Health and Family Welfare is also contemplating to approach Ministry of Postal and Customs to intercept Sex Determination Kits imported from abroad. The affidavit further expresses Government’s worry that availability of Gender Testing Kits/ Sex Determination Kits through http://www.pregnancystore.com advertisements has assumed alarming proportion in the country, especially in the elite states of the country like, Delhi and Punjab. It states that this is likely to effect the Government’s efforts in curbing female foeticide, containing the declining child sex ratio and ushering in a healthy gender ratio in the country. Therefore, to curb availability of such kits, the department had sought the cooperation of the Customs Department and had approached Central Board of Excise and Customs, Department of Revenue not to allow import of Gender Testing Civil Writ Petition No. 17964 of 2007 5 Kits/ Sex Determination Kits from abroad and if any such article, through any mode, is received, same be intercepted and confiscated. After filing of the affidavit, this court had called upon the Chairman, Central Board of Excise and Customs to file an affidavit. An affidavit was filed on behalf of the Chairman, Central Board of Excise and Customs, Department of Revenue, New Delhi. In the affidavit, it was stated that the Director General of Revenue Intelligence has been asked to collect data and identify the import of such kits to enable the Department to take action against them. It was further revealed in the affidavit that the data regarding import of Gender Testing Kits/ Sex Determination Kits for the last three years was gathered and the same does not show import of such kits. To effectively control availability of such kits, inter-ministerial committee has also held two meetings. After perusal of the affidavits submitted before us by the concerned officials, we are satisfied that the officers of the Union and the two State Governments are conscious that availability of Gender Testing Kits/ Sex Determination Kits will cause harm to the efforts of the Governments to propagate, educate, sensitize and cause awareness among the various walks of the society regarding ills of female foeticide and therefore, effective adequate steps are being taken to make availability of Gender Testing Kits/ Sex Determination Kits scarce. Not only a mandate has been issued against the imports but the various functionaries of the Governments are vigilant and making efforts in right earnest to quell import of such kits in the grey market and through regulated means. Having expressed our satisfac
tion, we dispose of present writ petition with the hope that all the concerned officials of the State Governments shall act in harmony and continue with their strenuous Civil Writ Petition No. 17964 of 2007 6 efforts to eliminate availability of Gender Testing Kits/ Sex Determination Kits, so that the laudable object and mission of the Governments stated in their affidavits to curb female foeticide is realized. We propose no order as to costs.
[T. S. THAKUR] [KANWALJIT SINGH AHLUWALIA] CHIEF JUSTICE JUDGE July 31, 2009 rps
IN THE HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA AT CHANDIGARH