The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has suspended certain rules under made under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994, citing difficulty in compliance due to the locdown announced in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
In a notification issued on April 4, the Ministry suspended the implementation of Rule 8, Rule 9(8) and Rule 18A(6) of the Preconception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules,1996 until June 30, 2020.
"The unprecedented scenario due to COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has made compliance of Rule 8, Rule 9(8) and Rule 18A (6) of the Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules 1996 difficult, leading to the necessity of issuing this notification, which will have retrospective effect. i.e. from the date of the lockdown, till June 30, 2020", said the notification.
The Act was made to address the problem of female foeticide in the country due to the preference for male child in some sections of the society. The Act therefore imposed an absolute prohibition on sex determination tests and mandated that pre-natal testing techniques could be used only for specific purposes such as determination of genetic abnormalities. The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.
Rule 8 deals with the application for re-registration of a genetic lab and clinic including an ultrasound lab by the AA (Appropriate Authority).The AA after enquiry and examining whether the clinic etc has been complying with the P-C & PNDT Act and rules,can renew the registration for 5 years.
Rule 9(8) states that each genetic or ultra sound clinic or imaging centre etc shall send a complete report of all pre-conception and pregnancy-related procedures conducted by them to the AA every month.
Rule 18A requires the AA to send quarterly reports to the Government and to maintain full information of all the registrations in the specified Form H.
Concerns have been raised over this decision of the Government on the ground that the suspension of compliance requirements by labs could be abused for illegal sex-determination.
"This suspension goes against the main purpose of the Act to stop sex selection by means of certain basic and vital compliances that genetic labs and clinics etc have to follow in keeping records and submitting these for scrutiny to the appropriate authority and for re- registration. AIDWA states that this retrograde step goes against the principles and law of delegated legislation which only allows the Centre to modify rules and then place it before parliament for scrutiny", stated the All India Democratic Women's Association.
In a letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brida Karat said that genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories and ultrasound clinics and imaging centres which are covered under essential services will continue to operate even during lockdown. So, the suspension of these rules could lead to rampant misues, Karat said.
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