Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Supreme Court Refuses To Stay Centre’s Notification Of April 4 Suspending Implementation Of PCPNDT Rules

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The Supreme Court on Monday has refused to stay the Centre’s notification of April 4, whereby Rule 8, 9(8) and 18 A (6) of the Preconception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection Rules), 1996, were suspended till June 30, 2020, in view of the Coronavirus-induced lockdown.

The Court has given liberty to the petitioner to raise the issue if the notification is renewed beyond June 30. The next hearing is scheduled in the third week of July.

A three-judge Bench of Justices UU Lalit, M. Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran issued a notice in a petition filed challenging a notification issued by Health Ministry in April this year suspending certain “time-sensitive rules with deadlines” under the law that prohibit sex determination in India.

Justice UU Lalit during the hearing today noted the relaxation has only been given till June 30th considering the kind of difficult situation in the country and the situation of a National emergency.

The petition was filed by Sabu Mathew George challenging the illegal and arbitrary Notification issued by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, on April 4th 2020, through which implementation of certain rules of of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection Rules), 1996 was suspended till 30th of June, 2020. The rules whose implementation was suspended were Rule 8, 9(8) and 18 A (6) of the Act.

According to the petition, the impugned Notification is entirely without jurisdiction and a nullity, as the Pre-Conception and Pre- Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 (the PCPNDT Act), does not give any powers for the suspension of the Rules made under the Act. The action of the Central Government in suspending certain Rules under the PCPNDT Act, 1994, despite not having the power to do so, violates Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution, as in addition to being without jurisdiction the Central Government has also arbitrarily and selectively weakened a legislation aimed at curbing the pernicious activity of sex-selection and sex-determination.

The petition has also mentioned a few statistics stating that the number of girls missing at birth due to the practice of gender biased sex selection in India has been estimated at 0.46 million girls per year for the period 2001-12 and the PCPNDT Act and the Rules, are aimed at remedying this social evil.  If these rules are suspended , the Central Government has diluted the PCPNDT Act, and this will result in misuse of technology by unscrupulous individuals, who will no longer be deterred by the monitoring mechanism provided in the Rules.

The petitioners contending that an act of the Parliament cannot be diluted by virtue of a notification issued by the Central Government, believe that the suspension of these Rules, in addition to being wholly illegal, will also cause great harm by derailing the proper implementation of the Act.

On April 4, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued a notification that effectively suspended implementation of Rule 8, Rule 9(8) and Rule 18A(6) of the Rules,1996 until June 30, 2020. The notification stated that this is being done in view of the emergency situation arisen due to pandemic COVID-19, whereby entire country has been put under lockdown.

The notification had called it an unprecedented scenario, and had stated that the compliance of Rule 8, Rule 9(8) and Rule 18A(6) of PCPNDT rules was difficult.

Rule 8 of the Act deals with application of re-registration of a genetic lab and clinic. The Appropriate Authority under the Act, can renew the registration for a period of 5 years after enquiry and examining whether the clinic etc has been complying with the PCPNDT Act and rules.

As per Rule 9(8) each genetic or ultra-sound clinic or imaging centre is required to send complete report of all pre-conception and pregnancy related procedures conducted to the Appropriate Authority every month.

Rule 18(A) lays down the code of conduct to be observed by Appropriate Authority and states the Appropriate Authority is required to send quarterly reports to the government in order to maintain full information of all registration

-India Legal Bureau

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