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SC orders Google, Yahoo! And Microsoft to stop advertisements relating to sex determination

A Supreme Court Bench, comprising of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant, has directed Google, Yahoo! And Microsoft to stop advertisements and not sponsor any advertisement relating to pre-natal determination of sex, in violation of Section 22 of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994. This was devised as an interim measure.

This order was also directed to be put on the policy page as well as the page containing the “terms and conditions” of these respondents.

The issue of total blocking of items by providing URL and IP Addresses by Google, Yahoo! And Microsoft to the Government will be taken up on 11th February.

Solicitor General, Ranjit Kumar had submitted that such blocking/filtering on key words advertisement links can either be done by the respondents themselves or by the Union of India on certain details being provided to them.

The Petitioner, Mr. Sabu Mathew George submitted that throughout the world, the search engines have been directed to block certain service/giving of information which are not permissible to be shown in that country despite the issues of jurisdiction and technical problems being raised.

At the Census 2001, sex ratio of the population in the age group 0-6 years has been registered as 927, in India, declining from 945 in 1991 and 962 in 1981. The data in 2011 painted a grim picture of child sex ratio which worsened to 914, the lowest since 1947.

While the overall sex ratio had improved to 940 as compared to 933 in 2001, the child (0-6 years) sex ratio, i.e. the number of girl children per 1,000 male children had shown an unabated decline since 1961. It has declined from 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011. The decreasing sex ratio in this age group has a cascading effect on population over a period of time leading to diminishing sex ratio in the country.

The Petitioner had earlier in December, 2014 submitted that despite the legal prohibition, the respondents, namely, Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt. Ltd., are still getting things advertised in violation of the legal provisions contained in the PCPNDT Act, 1994. The plea was put forward keeping in view the dwindling sex ratio of India.

The Group Coordinator, Cyber Laws Formulation and Enforcement Division, Government of India, Department of Information Technology, had filed a counter affidavit on 16th August, 2010 stating that “technological limitations pose a difficult task for providers of search engines to filter out/block the information violating the law.” He had submitted that pre-natal sex determination is an offence in India under PC & PNDT Act. However, it may not be an offence in other countries. Therefore, “blocking of such sites advertising pre-natal sex determination may not be feasible due to their hosting outside the country. Moreover, some of the websites provide good content for medical education and therefore blocking of such websites may not be desirable.”

The Court had however, expressed its dissatisfaction with the submission in December last year, and asserted that, “an effort has to be made to see that nothing contrary to laws of this country are advertised or shown on these websites.”

Read the Order here.

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