From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Particulars of the act
Mains level : PCPNDT Act
- In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court upheld provisions in the anti-pre-natal sex determination law which ‘criminalises’ non-maintenance of medical records by obstetricians and gynaecologists and suspend their medical licence indefinitely.
- The particular provisions in the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) PCPNDT Act of 1994 were necessary to prevent female foeticide in the country.
Apex court rulings
- The main purpose of the Act is to ban the use of sex selection and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortions and to regulate such techniques.
- The court dismissed averments made by doctors that the provisions in the law criminalise even the smallest anomaly in paperwork which is in fact an inadvertent and unintentional error.
- The sections have made obstetricians and gynecologists vulnerable to prosecution all over the country.
- It is a responsible job of the person who is undertaking such a test i.e., the gynecologist/medical geneticist/radiologist/ pediatrician/director of the clinic/centre/laboratory to fill the requisite information.
- In case he keeps it vague, he knows well that he is violating the provisions of the Act.
- Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India.
- The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
Why such an act?
- In the early 1990s ultrasound techniques gained widespread use in India . Foetal sex determination and sex selective abortion became rampant.
- There was a tendency for families to continuously produce children until a male child was born. Social discrimination against women and a preference for sons have promoted female foeticide in various forms skewing the sex ratio of the country towards men.
Features of the Act
- The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
- It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect:
- genetic abnormalities
- metabolic disorders
- chromosomal abnormalities
- certain congenital malformations
- sex linked disorders
- No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
- No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
- Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.Any subsequent conviction entails upto 5 years imprisonment and upto Rs.50,000 fine.
- The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.
- Metropolitan Magistrate or 1st class Judicial Magistrate will try any offence punishable under this law . According to Section 27 every offence is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
- The 1994 Act was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
- Amendment of the act mainly covered bringing the technique of pre conception sex selection within the ambit of the act.
- Bringing ultrasound within its ambit
- Empowering the central supervisory board, constitution of state level supervisory board.
- Provision for more stringent punishments
- Empowering appropriate authorities with the power of civil court for search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of the violators
- Regulating the sale of the ultrasound machines only to registered bodies