CRREF/420/2008 5/24 JUDGMENT
IN THE HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT AT AHMEDABAD
CRIMINAL REFERENCE No. 4 of 2008
CRIMINAL REFERENCE No. 3 of 2008
For Approval and Signature:
HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE M.S.SHAH Sd/-
HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE D.H.WAGHELA Sd/-
HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE AKIL KURESHI Sd/-
||Whether Reporters of Local Papers may be allowed to see the judgment ? YES
||To be referred to the Reporter or not ? YES
||Whether their Lordships wish to see the fair copy of the judgment ? NO
||Whether this case involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the constitution of India, 1950 or any order made thereunder ? NO
||Whether it is to be circulated to the civil judge ? Yes to all Judicial Magistrate in the State (FC)
SUO MOTU – Applicant(s)
STATE OF GUJARAT – Respondent(s)
SUO MOTU for Applicant(s) : 1,
MR SUNIT S SHAH PUBLIC PROSECUTOR for Respondent(s) : 1,
HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE M.S.SHAH
HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE D.H.WAGHELA
HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE AKIL KURESHI
Date : 30/09/2008
(Per : HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE D.H.WAGHELA)
1. By these References, learned single Judge has referred the following issues for consideration and opinion:
“(i) Whether under the provisions of section 28 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, a Court can take cognizance of an offence under the Act on a complaint made by any officer authorised in this behalf by the Appropriate Authority?
(ii) Whether the provisions of the proviso to sub-section (3) of section 4 of the PNDT Act require that the complaint should contain specific allegations regarding the contravention of the provisions of sections 5 and 6 of the Act?
(iii) Whether the burden lies on the authority to prove that there was contravention of the provisions of section 5 or 6 of the PNDT Act?
(iv) Whether any deficiency of inaccuracy in filing Form-F as required under the statutory provisions is merely a procedural lapse?”
2. Above issues have come to be referred on account of the learned single Judge not agreeing with the following observations and conclusions expressed by another learned single Judge in Dr.Manish C. Dave v. State of Gujarat [2008 (1) GLH 475] :
“10. ….Therefore, the complaint should be filed by Appropriate Authority or any officer authorised in this behalf by the Central Government of State Government and the person who has given notice of not less than fifteen days in the manner prescribed, to the Appropriate Authority of the alleged offence and of his intention to make a complaint to the Court. Admittedly, the complaints were not filed by Appropriate Authority or any officer authorised in this behalf. There is nothing on record to show that the persons who have filed the complaints have given notice as per Section 28 (b) of the Act. In view of these facts, I am of the view that the complaints become bad in law.
…. …. ….
“15. From a bare perusal of the complaints, it is apparent that it is not the case of the authority that provisions of Section 5 or 6 are applicable inasmuch as the authority has not been able to show or even alleged that (i) any pregnant woman or her relative or any other person has been communicated the sex of foetus by the petitioners or (ii) at any place and by any person, including the person conducting ultrasonography, there has been either sex determination or sex selection. In absence of such specific allegations in the complaint, it cannot be said that provisions of sections 5 and 6 of the Act would be attracted.
“16. Reading the proviso to section 3, it is to be presumed that the deficiency or inaccuracy in the record would amount to contraventions of the provisions of section 5 or section 6 of the Act. As a natural consequence, in view of such deficiency or inaccuracy, there should be allegation of contravention of provisions of sections 5 and 6 of the Act. In the present case, there are no specific allegations in the complaint pertaining to the provisions of sections 5 and 6. Apart from that, the language of sections 5 and 6 is prohibitory in nature and therefore the burden of proof will be on the authority to prove that there was contravention and thereupon to rely on the provisions of Statutory Form-F for filing criminal complaint.
…. …. ….
“18. As far as section 4 (3) is concerned, it is the case of the petitioners that the register is maintained with all the columns which fall within the four corners of the duties and functions of the petitioners. Apart from that, no opportunity is afforded to the petitioners to prove contrary and put up their case. Further, such deficiency or inaccuracy, at least so far as the present proceedings are concerned, is merely a procedural lapse, which do not in any manner contravene the provisions of sections 5 and 6 of the Act.
“19. In view of the above, when it is not established that there is contravention of the provisions of Sections 5 or 6, the contention regarding any inaccuracy or deficiency in Form-F will not be applicable and therefore the complaints themselves are not maintainable. I am, therefore, of the view that the complaints do not prima facie establish any alleged offence against the petitioners.”
The questions referred in Reference No.4 of 2008 include the issue referred in Reference No.3 of 2008 and they are heard and disposed as references under Rule 5 of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993.
3. The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (for short “the Act”) is enacted for the avowed purpose of prohibiting sex selection, before or after conception, and for regulation of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for the purposes of detecting genetic abnormalities or metabolic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities or certain congenital malformations or sex-linked disorders and for the prevention of their misuse for sex determination leading to female foeticide and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Relevant statutory provisions of the Act, as amended by the Act 14 of 2003, read as under:
In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-
(a) “Appropriate Authority” means the Appropriate Authority appointed under section 17;
(i) “pre-natal diagnostic procedures” means all gynaecological or obstetrical or medical procedures such as ultrasonography, foetoscopy, taking or removing samples of amniotic fluid, chorionic villi, embryo, blood or any other tissue or fluid of a man, or of a woman before or after conception, for being sent to a Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic for conducting any type of analysis or pre-natal diagnostic tests for selection of sex before or after conception;
(j) “Pre-natal diagnostic techniques” includes all pre-natal diagnostic procedures and pre-natal diagnostic tests;
(k) “pre-natal diagnostic test” means ultrasonography or any test or analysis of amniotic fluid, chorionic villi, blood or any tissue or fluid of a pregnant woman or conceptus conducted to detect genetic or metabolic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities or congenital anomalies or haemoglobinopathies or sex-linked diseases;
(l) “prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act.
REGULATION OF PRE-NATAL DIAGNOSTIC TECHNIQUES
4. Regulation of pre-natal diagnostic techniques-
On and from the commencement of this Act –
(1) no place including a registered Geneteic Counselling Centre or Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic shall be used or caused to be used by any person for conducting pre-natal diagnostic techniques except for the purposes specified in clause (2) and after satisfying any of the conditions specified in clause (3);
(2) no pre-natal diagnostic techniques shall be conducted except for the purposes of detection of any of the following abnormalities, namely-
(i) chromosomal abnormalities;
(ii) genetic metabolic diseases;
(iv) sex-linked genetic diseases;
(v) congenital anomalies;
(vi) any other abnormalities or diseases as may be specified by the Central Supervisory Board;
(3) no pre-natal diagnostic techniques shall be used or conducted unless the person qualified to do so is satisfied for reasons to be recorded in writing that any of the following conditions are fulfilled, namely-
(i) age of the pregnant woman is above thirty-five years;
(ii) the pregnant woman has undergone two or more spontaneous abortions or foetal loss;
(iii) the pregnant woman had been exposed to potentially teratogenic agents such as drugs, radiation, infection or chemicals;
(iv) the pregnant woman or her spouse has a family history of mental retardation or physical deformities such as, spasticity or any other genetic disease;
(v) any other conditions as may be specified by the Board:
Provided that the person conducting ultrasonography on a pregnant woman shall keep complete record thereof in the clinic in such manner, as may be prescribed, and any deficiency or inaccuracy found therein shall amount to contravention of the provisions of section 5 or section 6 unless contrary is proved by the person conducting such ultrasonography;
(4) no person including a relative or husband of the pregnant woman shall seek or encourage the conduct of any pre-natal diagnostic techniques on her except for the purposes specified in clause (2);
(5) no person including a relative or husband of a woman shall seek or encourage the conduct of any sex-selection technique on her or him or both.
5. Written consent of pregnant woman and prohibition of communicating the sex of foetus–
(1) No person referred to in clause (2) of section 3 shall conduct the pre-natal diagnostic procedures unless-
(a) he has explained all known side and after effects of such procedures to the pregnant woman concerned;
(b) he has obtained in the prescribed form her written consent to undergo such procedures in the language which she understands; and
(c) a copy of her written consent obtained under clause (b) is given to the pregnant woman.
(2) No person including the person conducting pre-natal diagnostic procedures shall communicate to the pregnant woman concerned or her relatives or any other person the sex of the foetus by words, signs, or in any other manner.
6. Determination of sex prohibited-
On and from the commencement of this Act-
(a) no Genetic Counselling Centre or Genetic Laboratory or Geneteic Clinic shall conduct or cause to be conducted in its Centre, Laboratory or Cinic, pre-natal diagnostic techniques including ultrasonography, for the purpose of determining the sex of a foetus;
(b) no person shall conduct or cause to be conducted any pre-natal diagnostic techniques including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of a foetus.
(c) no person shall, by whatever means, cause or allow to be caused selection of sex before or after conception.
APPROPRIATE AUTHORITY AND ADVISORY COMMITTEE
17. Appropriate Authority and Advisory Committee-
(1) The Central Government shall appoint, by notification in the Official Gazette, one or more Appropriate Authorities for each of the Union Territories for the purposes of this Act.
(2) The State Government shall appoint, by notification in the Official Gazette, one or more Appropriate Authorities for the whole or part of the State for the purposes of this Act having regard to the intensity of the problem of pre-natal sex determination leading to female foeticide.
(3) The officers appointed as Appropriate Authorities under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be,-
(a) when appointed for the whole of the State or the Union territory, consisting of the following three members:-
(i) an officer of or above the rank of the Joint Director of Health and Family Welfare- Chairperson;
(ii) an eminent woman representing women’s organization and
(iii) an officer of Law Department of the State or the Union territory concerned;
Provided that it shall be the duty of the State or the Union territory concerned to constitute multi-member State or Union territory level Appropriate Authority within three months of the coming into force of the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act, 2002:
Provided further that any vacancy occurring therein shall be filled within three months of the occurrence;
(b) when appointed for any part of the State or the Union territory, of such other rank as the State Government or the Central Government, as the case may be may deem fit.
(4) the Appropriate Authority shall have the following functions, namely-
(a) to grant, suspend or cancel registration of a Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic;
(b) to enforce standards prescribed for the Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic;
(c) to investigate complaints of breach of the provisions of this Act or the rules made thereunder and take immediate action;
(d) to seek and consider the advice of the Advisory Committee, constituted under sub-section (5), on application for registration and on complaints for suspension or cancellation of registration;
(e) to take appropriate legal action against the use of any sex selection technique by any person at any place, suo motu or brought to its notice and also to initiate independent investigation in such matter;
(f) to create public awareness against the practice of sex selection or pre-natal determination of sex;
(g) to supervise the implementation of the provisions of the Act and rules;
(h) to recommend to the Board and State Boards modifications required in the rules in accordance with changes in technology or social conditions;
(i) to take action on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee made after investigation of complaint for suspension or cancellation of registration.
OFFENCES AND PENALTIES
22. … … …
23. Offences and penalties:–
(1) Any medical geneticist, gynaecologist, registered medical practitioner or any person who owns a Genetic Counselling Centre, a Genetic Laboratory or a Genetic Clinic or is employed in such a Centre, Laboratory or Clinic and renders his professional or technical services to or at such a Centre, Laboratory or Clinic, whether on an honorary basis or otherwise, and who contravenes any of the provisions of this Act or rules made thereunder shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees and on any subsequent conviction, with imprisonment which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees.
(2) The name of the registered medical practitioner shall be reported by the Appropriate Authority to the State Medical Council concerned for taking necessary action including suspension of the registration if the charges are framed by the court and till the case is disposed of and on conviction for removal of his name from the register of the Council for a period of five years for the first offence and permanently for the subsequent offence.
(3) Any person who seeks the aid of any Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory, Genetic Clinic or ultrasound clinic or imaging clinic or of a medical geneticist, gynaecologist, sonologist or imaging specialist or registered medical practitioner or any other person for sex selection or for conducting pre-natal diagnostic techniques on any pregnant woman for the purposes other than those specified in sub-section (2) of section 4, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees for the first offence and for any subsequent offence with imprisonment which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
(4) For the removal of doubts, it is hereby provided, that the provisions of sub-section (3) shall not apply to the woman who was compelled to undergo such diagnostic techniques or such selection.
28. Cognizance of offences-
(1) No court shall take cognizance of an offence under this Act except on a complaint made by-
(a) the Appropriate Authority concerned, or any officer authorised in this behalf by the Central Government or State Government, as the case may be, or the Appropriate Authority; or
(b) a person who has given notice of not less than fifteen days in the manner prescribed, to the Appropriate Authority, of the alleged offence and for his intention to make a complaint to the court.
Explanation.- For the purpose of this clause, “person” includes a social organisation.
29. Maintenance of records-
(1) All records, charts, forms, reports, consent letters and all the documents required to be maintained under this Act and the rules shall be preserved for a period of two years or for such period as may be prescribed:
Provided that, if any criminal or other proceedings are instituted against any Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic, the records and all other documents of such Centre, Laboratory or Clinic shall be preserved till the final disposal of such proceedings.
(2) All such records shall, at all reasonable times, be made available for inspection to the Appropriate Authority or to any other person authorised by the Appropriate Authority in this behalf.”
3.1 In exercise of the powers conferred by section 32 of the Act, the Central Government has made the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules, 1996 (for short, “the Rules”) of which following provisions, as amended by notification [G.S.R.109 (E)] dated 14.02.2003, may be relevant:
“9. Maintenance and preservation of records-
(1) Every Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory, Genetic Clinic, Ultrasound Clinic and Imaging Centre shall maintain a register showing, in serial order, the names and addresses of the men or women given counselling, subjected to pre-natal diagnostic procedures or pre-natal diagnostic tests, the names of their spouses or fathers and the date on which they first reported for such counselling, procedure or test.
(2) The record to be maintained by every Genetic Counselling Centre, in respect of each woman counselled shall be as specified in Form D.
(3) The record to be maintained by every Genetic Laboratory, in respect of each man or woman subjected to any pre-natal diagnostic procedure/technique/test, shall be as specified in Form E.
(4) The record to be maintained by every Genetic Clinic, in respect of each man or woman subjected to any pre-natal diagnostic procedure/technique/test, shall be as specified in Form F.
(5) The Appropriate Authority shall maintain a permanent record of applications for grant or renewal of certificate of registration as specified in Form H. Letters of intimation of every change of employee, place, address and equipment installed shall also be preserved as permanent records.
(6) All case related records, forms of consent, laboratory results, microscopic pictures, sonographic plates or slides, recommendations and letters shall be preserved by the Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory, Genetic Clinic, Ultrasound Clinic or Imaging Centre for a period of two years from the date of completion of counselling, pre-natal diagnostic procedure or pre-natal diagnostic test, as the case may be. In the event of any legal proceedings, the record shall be preserved till final disposal of legal proceedings, or till the expiry of the said period of two years, whichever is later.
(7) In case the Genetic Counselling Centre or Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic or Ultrasound Clinic or Imaging Centre maintains records on computer or other electronic equipment, a printed copy of the record shall be taken and preserved after authentication by a person responsible for such record.
(8) Every Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory, Genetic Clinic, Ultrasound Clinic and Imaging Centre shall send a complete report in respect of all pre-conception or pregnancy related procedures/techniques/tests conducted by them in respect of each month by 5th day of the following month to the concerned Appropriate Authority.
10. Conditions for conducting pre-natal diagnostic procedures-
(1) Before conducting preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or any pre-natal diagnostic technique/test/procedure, such as amniocentesis, chorionic villi biopsy, foetoscopy, foetal skin or organ biopsy or cordocentesis, a written consent, as specified in Form G, in a language the person undergoing such procedure understands, shall be obtained from her/him:
Provided that where a Genetic Clinic has taken a sample of any body tissue or body fluid and sent it to a Genetic Laboratory for analysis or test, it shall not be necessary for the Genetic Laboratory to obtain a fresh consent in Form G.
(1A) Any person conducting ultrasonography/image scanning on a pregnant woman shall give a declaration on each report on ultrasonography/image scanning that he/she has neither detected nor disclosed the sex of foetus of the pregnant woman to any body. The pregnant woman shall before undergoing ultrasonography/ image scanning delcare that she does not want to know the sex of her foetus.
(2) All the State Governments and Union territories may issue translation of Form G in languages used in the State or Union Territory and where no official translation in a language understood by the pregnant woman is available, the Genetic Clinic may translate Form G into a language she understands.”
“14. Conditions for analysis or test and pre-natal diagnostic procedures-
(1) No Genetic Laboratory shall accept for analysis or test any sample, unless referred to it by a Genetic Clinic.
(2) Every pre-natal diagnostic procedure shall invariably be immediately preceded by locating the foetus and placenta through ultrasonography, and the pre-natal diagnostic procedure shall be done under direct ultrasonographic mnitoring so as to prevent any damage to the foetus and placenta.”
“18. Code of conduct to be observed by persons working at Genetic Counselling Centres, Genetic Laboratories, Genetic Clinics, Ultrasound Clinics, Imaging Centre, etc.
All persons including the owners, employee or any other persons associated with Genetic Counselling Centres, Genetic Laboratories, Genetic Clinics, Ultrasound Clinics, Imaging Centres registered under the Act/these Rules shall-
(i) not conduct or associate with, or help in carrying out detection or disclosure of sex of foetus in any manner;
(ii) not employ or cause to be employed any person not possessing qualifications necessary for carrying out pre-natal diagnostic techniques/ procedures and tests including ultrasonography;
(iii) not conduct or cause to be conducted or aid in conducting by himself or through any other person any techniques or procedure for selection of sex before or after conception or for detection of sex of foetus except for the purposes specified in sub-section (2) of section 4 of the Act;
(iv) not conduct or cause to be conducted or aid in conducting by himself or through any other person any techniques or test or procedure under the Act at a place other than a place registered under the Act/these Rules;
(v) ensure that no provision of the Act and these rules are violated in any manner;
(vi) ensure that the person, conducting any techniques, test or procedure leading to detection of sex of foetus for purposes not covered under section 4 (2) of the Act or selection of sex before or after conception, is informed that such procedures lead to violation of the Act and these rules which are punishable offences;
(vii) help the law enforcing agencies in bringing to book the violators of the provisions of the Act and these Rules;
(viii) display his/her name and designation prominently on the dress worn by him/her;
(ix) write his/her name and designation in full under his/her signature;
(x) on no account conduct or allow/cause to be conducted female foeticide;
(xi) not commit any other act of professional misconduct.”
3.2 Form-F prescribed for maintaining the records under Rule 9 (4) and Rule 10 (1A) is as under:
(See proviso to section 4 (3), rule 9(4) and rule 10 (1A)
FORM FOR MAINTENANCE OF RECORD IN RESPEPCT OF PREGNANT
WOMAN BY GENETIC CLINIC/ULTRASOUND CLINIC/IMAGING CENTRE.
1. Name and address of the Genetic Clinic/
Ultrasound Clinic/Imaging Centre.
2. Registration No.
3. Patient’s name and her age
4. Number of children with sex of each child
5. Husband’s/Father’s name
6. Full address with Tel.No.,if any.
7. Referred by (full name and address of
Doctor(s)/Genetic Counselling Centre
(referral note to be preserved carefully
with the case papers)/self referral.
8. Last menstrual period/weeks of pregnancy
9. History of genetic/medical disease in themselves
Basis of diagnosis:
(d) Other (e.g. radiological, ultrasonography
10. Indication for pre-natal diagnosis
A. Previous child/children with:
(i) Chromosomal disorders
(ii) Metabolic disorders
(iii) Congenital anomaly
(iv) Mental retardation
(vi) Sex linked disorders
(vii) Single gene disorder
(viii) Any other (specify)
B. Advanced maternal age (35 years)
C. Mother/father/sibling has genetic
D. Other (specify)
11. Procedures carried out (with name and
registration No. of Gynaecologist/
Practitioner who performed it).
(i) Ultrasound (specify purpose for which
ultrasound is to be done during pregnancy)
(list of indications for ultrasonography of
pregnant women are given in the
(iii) Chorionic Villi aspiration
(iv) Foetal biopsy
(vi) Any other (specify)
12. Any complication of procedure-please specify
13. Laboratory tests recommended
(i) Chromosomal studies
(ii) Biochemical studies
(iii) Molecular studies
(iv) Preimplantation genetic diagnosis
14. Result of
(a) pre-natal diagnostic procedure (give
(b) Ultrasonography Normal/Abnormal
(specify abnormality detected,if any)
15. Date(s) on which procedures carried out.
16. Date of which consent obtained (In case of invasive)
17. The result of pre-natal diagnostic procedure were conveyed to…………………..on………
18. Was MTP advised/conducted?
19. Date on which MTP carried out.
Name, Signature and Registration number of the Gynaecologist/ Radiologist/ Director of the Clinic.
DECLALRATION OF PREGNANT WOMAN
I, Ms………………(name of the pregnant woman), declare that by undergoing ultrasonography/image scanning etc. I do not want to know the sex of my foetus.
Signature/Thumb impression of pregnant woman
DECLARATION OF DOCTOR/PERSON CONDUCTING
I,………(name of the person conducting ultrasonography/ image scanning) declare that while conducting ultrasonography/image scanning on Ms………(name of the pregnant woman), I have neither detected nor disclosed the sex of her foetus to anybody in any manner.
Name and signature of the person conducting the
sonography/image scanning/Director or owner of
genetic clinic/ultrasound clinic/imaging centre.
(i) Ultrasound is not indicated/advised/performed to determine the sex of foetus except for diagnosis of sex-linked diseases such as Duchenne Muscular Dystropy, Haemophilia A& B etc.
(ii) During pregnancy Ultrasonography should only be performed when indicated. The following is the representative list of indications for ultrasound during pregnancy:-
(1) to (23) ….. ….. …..”
4. It was argued by learned Public Prosecutor Mr.Sunit Shah that the Appropriate Authority for the State being a multi-member body, delegation of authority for filing a complaint was essential and explicit in the provisions of section 28 of the Act. He also submitted that in view of increasing incidence of female foeticide and adverse sex-ratio in the society, the legislature has advisedly made stringent provisions for preventing misuse of the pre-natal diagnostic techniques. The maintenance and preservation of records particularly in case of pregnant women undergoing ultrasonography, under the pain of heavy penalties, was part of a strategy to curb the misuse of diagnostic techniques and without such compulsion to keep the records in the prescribed manner, it would be well nigh impossible to trace and prove the offences under the Act. The requirement of maintaining the records was itself an effective check against commission of other offences, according to the submission. Per contra, it was submitted that the provisions of sub-section (3) of section 4 were procedural and any lapse in maintaining the record could not be equated with substantive offences of contravention of the provisions of section 5 or 6. It was submitted that even a minor, formal, technical or accidental slip in filling the forms or keeping the record cannot be the basis of allegation of inaccuracy or deficiency and should not be allowed to expose the person conducting ultrasonography on a pregnant woman to prosecution for serious offences and cast upon him an impossible burden of proving all the ingredients of sections 5 and 6 of the Act.
5. A conjoint reading of the above provisions would clearly indicate a well-knit legislative scheme for ensuring a strict and vigilant enforcement of the provisions of the Act directed against female foeticide and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques. In fact, the use of those techniques are restricted to the purpose of detection of any of the abnormalities or diseases enumerated in sub-section (2) of section 4 of the Act. The provisions are stricter in case of conduct of pre-natal diagnostic techniques on a pregnant woman, requiring her written consent and determination of sex of a foetus is prohibited by the provisions of sections 5 and 6. Constitution of ‘Appropriate Authority’ under section 17 is clearly meant to ensure proper and vigorous implementation of the Act; and it is expressly prescribed as one of its functions to take legal action against the use of any sex-selection technique. That authority, where appointed for the whole of a State or Union Territory, has to consist of three members. And when it is appointed for a part of the State or a Union Territory, it could consist of an officer of such rank as the Government concerned may deem fit.
6. The provisions of section 28 clearly provide for taking cognizance of an offence under the Act only upon a complaint being made by any of the four categories of complainants, viz:
(1) the Appropriate Authority concerned;
(2) any officer authorised in that behalf by the Central Government or State Government;
(3) any officer authorised in that behalf by the Appropriate Authority; and
(4) a person, which includes a social organisation, who has given notice as prescribed in section 28 (1) (b).
Use of the words “Appropriate Authority” twice, at the beginning and end of clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 28, clearly conveys that complaint could be made by an officer who is authorised in that behalf by the Central Government, the State Government or the Appropriate Authority, besides the Appropriate Authority itself. The power to delegate and authorise an officer to make a complaint is clearly conferred upon all the three authorities under the provisions of section 28, and, therefore, a Court can take cognizance of an offence under the Act on a complaint made by any officer authorised in that behalf by the Appropriate Authority. The first issue is answered accordingly.
7. As seen earlier, the Act and the Rules made thereunder provide for an elaborate scheme to ensure proper implementation of the relevant legal provisions and the possible loop-holes in strict and full compliance are sought to be plugged by detailed provisions for maintenance and preservation of records. In order to fully operationalise the restrictions and injunctions contained in the Act in general and in sections 4, 5 and 6 in particular, to regulate the use of pre-natal diagnostic technique, to make the pregnant woman and the person conducting the pre-natal diagnostic tests and procedures aware of the legal and other consequences and to prohibit determination of sex, the Rules prescribe the detailed forms in which records have to be maintained. Thus the Rules are made and forms are prescribed in aid of the Act and they are so important for implementation of the Act and for prosecution of the offenders, that any improper maintenance of such record is itself made equivalent to violation of the provisions of sections 5 and 6, by virtue of the proviso to sub-section (3) of section 4 of the Act. It must, however, be noted that the proviso would apply only in cases of ultrasonography conducted on a pregnant woman. And any deficiency or inaccuracy in the prescribed record would amount to contravention of the provisions of sections 5 and 6 unless and until contrary is proved by the person conducting such ultrasonography. The deeming provision is restricted to the cases of ultrasonography on pregnant women and the person conducting ultrasonography is, during the course of trial or other proceeding, entitled to prove that the provisions of sections 5 and 6 were, in fact, not violated.
8. It needs to be noted that improper maintenance of the record has also consequences other than prosecution for deemed violation of section 5 or 6. Section 20 of the Act provides for cancellation or suspension of registration of Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic in case of breach of the provisions of the Act or the Rules. Therefore, inaccuracy or deficiency in maintaining the prescribed record shall also amount to violation of the prohibition imposed by section 6 against the Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory or Genetic Clinic and expose such clinic to proceedings under section 20 of the Act. Where, by virtue of the deeming provisions of the proviso to sub-section (3) of section 4, contravention of the provisions of section 5 or 6 is legally presumed and actions are proposed to be taken under section 20, the person conducting ultrasonography on a pregnant woman shall also have to be given an opportunity to prove that the provisions of section 5 or 6 were not violated by him in conducting the procedure. Thus the burden shifts on to the person accused of not maintaining the prescribed record, after any inaccuracy or deficiency is established, and he gets the opportunity to prove that the provisions of sections 5 and 6 were not contravened in any respect. Although it is apparently a heavy burden, it is legal, proper and justified in view of the importance of the Rules regarding maintenance of record in the prescribed forms and the likely failure of the Act and its purpose if procedural requirements were flouted. The proviso to sub-section (3) of section 4 is crystal clear about the maintenance of the record in prescribed manner being an independent offence amounting to violation of section 5 or 6 and, therefore, the complaint need not necessarily also allege violation of the provisions of section 5 or 6 of the Act. A rebuttable presumption of violation of the provisions of section 5 or 6 will arise on proof of deficiency or inaccuracy in maintaining the record in the prescribed manner and equivalence with those provisions would arise for punishment as well as for disproving their violation by the accused person. That being the scheme of these provisions, it would be wholly inappropriate to quash the complaint alleging inaccuracy or deficiency in maintenance of the prescribed record only on the ground that violation of section 5 or 6 of the Act was not alleged or made out in the complaint. It would also be improper and premature to expect or allow the person accused of inaccuracy or deficiency in maintenance of the relevant record to show or prove that provisions of section 5 or 6 were not violated by him, before the deficiency or inaccuracy were established in court by the prosecuting agency or before the authority concerned in other proceedings.
9. Upon above analysis and appreciation of the scheme and provisions of the Act and Rules made thereunder, opinion on issues referred to the larger bench is as under:
(i) Under the provisions of section 28 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (“the PNDT Act”), a Court can take cognizance of an offence under the Act on a complaint made by any officer authorised in that behalf by the Appropriate Authority.
(ii) The proviso to sub-section (3) of section 4 of the PNDT Act does not require that the complaint alleging inaccuracy or deficiency in maintaining record in the prescribed manner should also contain allegation of contravention of the provisions of section 5 or 6 of the PNDT Act.
(iii) In a case based upon allegation of deficiency or inaccuracy in maintenance of record in the prescribed manner as required under sub-section (3) of section 4 of the PNDT Act, the burden to prove that there was contravention of the provisions of section 5 or 6 does not lie upon the prosecution.
(iv) Deficiency or inaccuracy in filling Form F prescribed under Rule 9 of the Rules made under the PNDT Act, being a deficiency or inaccuracy in keeping record in the prescribed manner, it is not a procedural lapse but an independent offence amounting to contravention of the provisions of section 5 or 6 of the PNDT Act and has to be treated and tried accordingly. It does not, however, mean that each inaccuracy or deficiency in maintaining the requisite record may be as serious as violation of the provisions of section 5 or 6 of the Act and the Court would be justified, while imposing punishment upon conviction, in taking a lenient view in cases of only technical, formal or insignificant lapses in filling up the forms. For example, not maintaining the record of conducting ultrasonography on a pregnant woman at all or filling up incorrect particulars may be taken in all seriousness as if the provisions of section 5 or 6 were violated, but incomplete details of the full name and address of the pregnant woman may be treated leniently if her identity and address were otherwise mentioned in a manner sufficient to identify and trace her.
(v) The judgment in Dr.Manish C. Dave v. State of Gujarat reported in 2008 (1) GLH 475 stands overruled to the extent it is inconsistent with the above opinion. The references stand disposed accordingly.
( M.S.Shah, J.)
( D.H.Waghela, J.)
( Akil Kureshi, J.)