Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft were on Wednesday asked to “delete” inside 36 hours the advertisements, facilitated by them, pertaining to pre-natal sex determination by the Supreme Court which guided the Center to select a nodal organization to monitor the sites.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said that the nodal office would illuminate these search engines about any such promotions on the sites and Indian arms of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo would erase them inside 36 hours.

“We direct the Union of India to constitute a nodal agency which would give advertisements on TV, radio and in newspapers….that if anybody comes across anything which identify a girl or a boy (at pre-natal stage), it should be brought to the notice of the nodal agency.”

Supreme Court asks Microsoft, Google, Yahoo to delete sex determination ads
Supreme Court asks Microsoft, Google, Yahoo to delete sex determination ads

“Once it is brought to the notice of the nodal agency, it shall inform the search engines and they, after receiving the information, are obliged to delete it within 36 hours and inform the nodal agency,” the bench said.

The apex court, which settled the matter for further hearing on February 17 next year , said the “interim arrangement” would continue till the issue pertaining to advertisements relating to pre-natal sex determination was “debated” upon before it.

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.

“Whatever is prohibited under the Act cannot go through it (websites),” the bench observed, adding, “If anyone comes across anything which offends or has an impact on the sex ratio in India, it shall be removed by the search engines within 36 hours.”

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was appearing up 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 guidance showing up for the other search engines likewise said that they have found a way to conform to the arrangements of the Act.

With respect to entries via search engines about access to data, unless it is not disallowed under the Act, the bench said this issue must be debated after amid further hearing.

Advocate Sanjay Parikh, showing up for petitioner Sabu Mathew George who is looking for the court’s intercession in perspective of diminishing sex proportion, guaranteed that in spite of the order of the apex court, one can see advertisements and data relating to sexual determination on such websites.

He said that the search engines were raising the issue of commercial angle and freedom of access to information. During the hearing, the bench also asked the Centre about what steps it has taken in this regard.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P S Narsimha said that the intent of the law is to prohibit any advertisement pertaining to pre-natal sex determination and search engines should devise their own methods to stop it. He said that the Centre has filed an affidavit in this regard before the court.

The apex court had on September 19 said that these search engines were under “obligation” to check ads about pre-natal sex assurance in India and had guided them to create in-house techniques to disallow such content.

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex proportion in India. It had banned pre-natal sex determination.

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