A Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra has sought detailed affidavits from all States as well as the Centre, elaborating on the steps taken by them to curb the menace of female foeticide, which has been distorting the sex ratio of the country, despite of being banned almost two decades ago.
The order was in response to a report which stated that the nuisance continued to be widespread. The report, as submitted by an inspection panel appointed by the Apex Court, blamed the states for being responsible for the collapse of the court appointed mechanism for dealing with it.
Female foeticide is an acute manifestation of brutality against women. Female fetuses are selectively aborted after pre natal sex determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls. In our country, where female infanticide has subsisted for centuries, female foeticide has joined the scrimmage and is gaining momentum every passing day. The striking drop in birth rates in several Indian States contributes towards intensification of son preference in the existing patriarchal society.
The National Inspection and Monitoring Committee (NIMC) established in 2003 submitted that usually these clinics engaged in this money-spinning business have a nexus with the State authorities.
The panel reportedly stated in its statement, "The NIMC faced difficulties while conducting inspections in various states and this is mainly due to lack of adequate cooperation. In certain cases, it was observed that the authorities have a nexus with clinic owners and would prevent NIMC from conducting inspections," adding that "If the states ignore the recommendations then there will be no deterrence to violators. The states should be asked to file reports on actions taken against such practices in the past three years."
Dr. Sabu Mathew George, NIMC member and an expert in the field, asserts that, "The NIMC team visits various states and inspects clinics and detailed recommendations are thereafter submitted to local authorities. Regrettably, far too often the local authorities do not act. If clinics are closed for serious violations, the authorities re-open them in a few days without filing any cases under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT ) Act." He stated that said there was no consistency in the functioning of the committee due to "certain on field difficulties" and no inspections were carried out between 2009 and 2011 and from December 2012 to April 2013.
He urged the Court to direct the States to follow the example of Kerala and maintain an online birth registration system, in order to highlight potential distortions arising out of medical intervention before birth. The implementation of legislation has been ascribed as the major drawback in curbing the pest.
The Public Interest Litigation before the court was filed in 2006, by an NGO Voluntary Health Association of Punjab, after a large number of female foetuses were found in a well at a doctor’s house in Punjab. The PIL demanded effective implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act of 1994.
India has a deeply rooted patriarchal attitude to which even the Doctors and the women, who in spite of being the victims, unthinkingly subscribe. There is an urgent need of undoing the historical and traditional wrongs of a gendered society; only then the hope of abolition of female infanticide and boy preference can positively adjust the figures in favor of the girl child in future. The skewed sex ratio has to find a balance in order to maintain the progress of the country.
According to the latest estimates, five lakh female foetuses are aborted annually. Recent UNICEF report states that India has lost over one crore girls since 2007. Eighty per cent districts in India have recorded an increasingly awry sex ratio since 1991, the report said. The sex ratio is India has gone down from 104.0 males per 100 females in 1981 to 107.8 in 2001 and 109.4 in 2011.
According to the latest data available till May 2006, as many as 22 out of 35 states in India had not reported a single case of violation of the act since it came into force.
The Bench fixed the matter for "final hearing" on September 16 and warned the states that in case an affidavit is not filed by then, its responsible officer will have to be present before the Court.