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Pre-natal sex determination ads in Google, Yahoo, Bing to be blocked: SC

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Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft were on Wednesday asked to “delete” within 36 hours the advertisements, hosted by them, pertaining to pre-natal sex determination in India by the Supreme Court which directed the Centre to appoint a nodal agency to monitor the websites.

“If it’s found that there are certain words which facilitated sex determination, then those words should be deleted in 36 hours,” the apex court told the Centre.

The next hearing is scheduled on January 17, 2017.

The Supreme Court on September 19 heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in which Google, Yahoo and other search engines have been made a party for allegedly putting up advertisements selling pre-natal sex determination kits.

During the hearing, the bench expressed concern over the declining sex ratio and said, “Whether one will have a boy or a girl, that kind of information is not necessary in India. The sex ratio is going down here and we are concerned about that.”

“We had passed an order recently on this. Whether you are making money or not we are not concerned with that. The 1994 (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act says nobody shall propagate (pre-natal sex determination) and if anyone is propagating, it has to be stopped,” it said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was appearing for Google India Pvt Ltd, said they have complied with the earlier order passed by the apex court in the matter and they have already taken steps to block any such advertisements.

The counsel appearing for the other search engines also said that they have taken steps to comply with the provisions of the Act. However, they contended that the matter requires further debate.

Regarding the submissions by search engines about access to information, unless it is not prohibited under the Act, the bench said this issue has to be debated upon during further hearing.

Advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for petitioner Sabu Mathew George who is seeking the court’s intervention in view of decreasing sex ratio, claimed that despite the order of the apex court, one can see advertisements and information pertaining to gender determination on such websites.

The government was earlier directed by the Supreme Court to block nearly 43 keywords related to the subject.
The Supreme Court has asked the government to advertise widely on television, radio and other forms of communication, telling people that selling sex determination kits or products is illegal.

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