Supreme Court says ‘a legal solution has to be arrived at’ as Government expresses helplessness over search engine results

Supreme Court says ‘a legal solution has to be arrived at’ as Government expresses helplessness over search engine results

Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioner Sabu Mathew George raised the issue of search engines showing results in violation of the legal provisions contained in the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, in the Supreme Court today.

He submitted that, Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt. Ltd., are still getting things advertised in violation of the legal provisions contained in the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act.

Sanjay Parikh, highlighting the issue of low sex ratio in the country, submitted to the Court that, ‘Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and Information and the competent authority of Department of Health and Family Welfare are required to work harmoniously to see to it that the provisions of the 1994 Act are not violated, for that gravely affects the sex ratio in the country which has been seriously viewed by the legislature, as well as by this Court on the basis of legislation made by the Parliament.”

Meanwhile the government sought time to file a reply. The Court, while giving a week to reply, posted the matter for hearing on December 15.

However, the Apex Court referred to an affidavit filed by the Group Coordinator in Department of IT, Government of India, which said, ‘technological limitations pose a difficult task for providers of search engines to filter out/block the information violating the law.’

The affidavit further differentiated between search results and explain the manner of the working of search processes in search engines.

If further said, “The pre-natal sex determination is an offence in India under PC &PNDT Act. However, it may not be an offence in other countries. The information published on the websites is generally aimed at for wider, world wide dissemination and caters to the needs to many countries and may not be for the Indian citizens. Also, most of these websites are hosted outside the country. 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 Supreme Court, in relation to the affidavit observed, “As we understand from the affidavit, it reflects a kind of helplessness by the said deponent. That apart, we do not appreciate the manner in which the stand has been expressed in paragraph (s) of the counter affidavit, that has been reproduced hereinabove.”

Moreover, Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh also submitted the point that, ‘other countries have been able to control such advertisements, which violate the laws of their countries by way of entering into certain kind of agreement, developing technical tools and issuing appropriate directions.’

The Supreme Court then asked the Solicitor General to assist the Court on the next date. It also recorded, ‘Learned counsel for the respondent Nos.3 to 5 have submitted that the websites do not violate the laws of India, but as they provide a corridor, they do not have any control. Be that as it may, a legal solution has to be arrived at.’

You may read more of our coverage on Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques here