Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act Targeting Adverse Child Sex-Ratio In India

New Delhi, April 20, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB-India) The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991. Female infanticide had been prohibited through legislation in pre-independence period and certain provisions were included in the Indian Penal code, 1860 for punishing causing miscarriages and other such offenses but with the advent of diagnostic technology to detect the sex of the fetus very early on in pregnancy, a need was felt for a specific law to prevent the misuse of technology which could lead to female foeticide.

With the rise of pre-natal diagnostic techniques especially amniocentesis, the Government issued a directive banning its misuse in government hospitals/laboratories in 1978. Subsequently, in 1988 the Government of Maharashtra enacted the Maharashtra Regulation of Pre-natal diagnostic Techniques Act. After intensive public debate over this issue, the Parliament enacted the PNDT Act, 1994 comprehensively defining various terms, prohibiting the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques to detect the sex of the fetus before or after conception and prescribing penalties.

In 1988, the State of Maharashtra became the first in the country to ban pre-natal sex determination through enacting the Maharashtra Regulation of Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. At the national level the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act was enacted on September 20, 1994. This act came into force in the year 1996.

The Act was amended in 2003 following a PIL filed in 2000 to improve regulation of technology capable of sex selection and to arrest the decline in the child sex ratio as revealed by the Census 2001. With effect from February 14, 2003, due to the amendments, the Act is known as the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

The main purpose of enacting the PC & PNDT (prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 has been to:

  • Ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception
  • Prevent the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex selective abortions
  • Regulate such techniques

The long title of the Act now reads, “An Act to provide for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception, and for regulation of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for the purposes of detecting abnormalities or metabolic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities or certain congenital malformations or sex-linked disorders and for the prevention of their misuse for sex determination leading to female foeticide and for matters connected therewith or incident thereto”.

Amendments to the Act mainly covered: i) bringing the technique of pre-conception sex selection within the ambit of the Act, ii) Bringing the use of Ultrasound Machines within the purview of the Act more explicitly, iii) Further empower the Central Supervisory Board for monitoring the implementation of the Act, iv) Constitution of State level Supervisory Boards and a multi-member State Appropriate Authority for better implementation, v) More stringent punishments, vi) Empowering the Appropriate Authorities with the powers of the Civil Court for search, seizure and sealing the machines/equipments/records of the violators, including sealing the premises and commissioning of witnesses, vii) making mandatory the maintenance of proper records in respect of the use of ultrasound machines and viii) Regulate the sale of ultrasound machines only to the registered bodies.

Provisions of the Act

The Act has the following main provisions:

  • Registration: All bodies under the PC & PNDT Act, 1994, namely Genetic Counselling Centres, Genetic Laboratories or Genetic Clinics cannot function unless registered. The requirement of registration is mandatory whether the body is government, private, voluntary, honorary, part-time, contractual or consultative. Registration of these bodies as a center and/or clinic can be done jointly or separately.
  • Prohibitions: The PC & PNDT Act, 1994 prohibits sex selection before or after conception and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for determination of the sex of the fetus as also advertisements in relation to such techniques for detection or determination of sex. The Act specifies punishments for violation of its provisions.
  • Implementation: The Act is implemented through the following agencies -Central Supervisory Board (CSB); State Supervisory Boards (SSBs) and Union Territory Supervisory Boards (UTSBs); Appropriate Authority for the whole or a part of the State/Union Territory; State Advisory Committee (SAC) and Union Territory Advisory Committee (UTAC); Advisory Committees (AC) for designated areas (part of the State) attached to each Appropriate Authority; Appropriate Authorities at the District and Sub-District levels.
  • Maintenance & Preservation Of Records: The Act and Rules deal elaborately with the maintenance and preservation of proper records. This has two advantages; i) From the point of view of the center/clinic if there is a complaint the records can prove their action to be in accordance with the law and, ii) From the point of view of the Implementing Authorities the records can help in establishing compliance while non-maintenance itself can give rise to a cause of action indicating probable misuse of diagnostic techniques.
  • Search, Seizure & Sealing Powers: When an Appropriate Authority or any other authorized officer has reason to believe that an offense has been committed under the Act, he may search any place suspected to be conducting pre-natal diagnostic techniques. The scope of the powers of the Appropriate Authorities are very wide and they are empowered with the powers of Civil Court for search, seizure and sealing the machines, equipments and records of the violators of law including sealing of premises and commissioning of witnesses.

Offences under the Act

  • Conducting or associating or helping in the conduct of PND techniques/tests in an un-registered unit: Liable person is the owner or person responsible for conducting the PND test;
  • Sex selection on a woman or a man or both or on any tissue, embryo, conceptus fluid or gametes derived from either or both of them: Liable person is the specialist or team of specialists;
  • Taking the services of an un-qualified person, whether on honorary or payment basis: Liable person is the Unit owner or person responsible;
  • Conducting a PND test for any purpose other than those mentioned as permissible in the Act: Liable person is the Unit owner, person responsible or person conducting the procedure;
  • Sale, distribution, supply, renting, allowance or authorization of use of any ultrasound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of a fetus to non-registered units: Liable person is any organization, company, manufacturer, Importer, Dealer, supplier;
  • Advertisement or communication in any from in print, electronic media or internet by units, medical professionals or companies on the availability of sex determination and sex selection in the form of services, medicines, or any kind of techniques, methods or ayurvedic medicines: Liable person is the unit owner, person responsible, distributor, printer, publisher, website host, website developer or anyone connected with the issuance of any such communication or advertisement.

As per the reports received from the States and UTs, 32380 bodies using ultrasound, image scanners etc. have been registered under the Act. 801 ultrasound machines have been sealed and seized for violation of the law and 902 cases have been filed in the Courts for various violations of the law. A total of 55 convictions have been secured by Punjab (22), Haryana(23), Delhi(2), Chandigarh(1) and Gujarat(4). The concerned State governments are regularly requested to take effective measures for speedy prosecution of the ongoing cases.

Penalties under the Act

  • Breach of any provision by the service provider: 3 years imprisonment and/or a fine of Rs. 10,000/-; For any subsequent offense: 5 years imprisonment and/or fine of Rs. 50,000/- (Section 23 (1));
  • Medical Professionals: AA will inform the State Medical Council and recommend suspension of the offender’s registration if charges are framed by the court and till the case is disposed off; removal of name from the register for 5 years on 1st conviction and permanently in case of subsequent breach (Section 23 (2));
  • Persons seeking to know the sex of the fetus (A woman will be presumed to have been compelled by her husband and relatives): Imprisonment extending up to 3 years and a fine of up to Rs. 50,000/-; For subsequent offenses: Imprisonment up-to 5 years and or a fine of Rs. 1,00,000/- (Section 23 (3));
  • Persons connected with advertisement of sex selection/sex determination services: Imprisonment up to 3 years and/or a fine of Rs. 10,000/- with additional fine of continuing contravention at the rate of Rs. 500/- per day (Section 22 (3));
  • Advertisement for the purpose of Section 22 (3) includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper or any other document including advertisement through internet or any other media in electronic or print form and also includes visible representation made by means of any hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke, gas, etc.;
  • Contravention of provisions of the PC & PNDT Act, 1994 for which no specific punishment is provided in the Act are punishable with imprisonment up to 3 months and/or fine of Rs. 1,000/- with additional fine of continuing contravention at the rate of Rs. 500/- per day (Section 25);
  • Such contraventions can be presumed to be the non-maintenance of records, non-compliance with standards prescribed for the maintenance of units, etc.
  • The offenses under the Act are cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.

Adverse Child Sex-Ratio In India

The Child Sex Ratio for the age group of 0-6 years as per the 2011 census (provisional) has dipped further to 914 girls as against 927 per thousand boys recorded in 2001 Census. This is the worst dip since 1947.This negative trend reaffirms the fact that the girl child is more at risk than ever before. Except for the states of Himachal Pradesh (906), Punjab (846), Chandigarh (867), Haryana (830), Mizoram (971), Tamil Nadu (946), Andaman   & Nicobar Islands(966), the CSR has shown a declining trend in most states . Among the larger States, Chhattisgarh has the highest Child Sex Ratio (CSR) of 964 followed by Kerala with 959. Haryana (830) is at the bottom followed by Punjab (846)

Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Haryana have had the worst 30 year decline in child sex ratios. The Census 2011 figures reveal that the child sex ratio is comparatively lower in the affluent regions – the CSR in the states of Punjab (846), Haryana (830), Himachal Pradesh (906), Chandigarh (867) and Gujarat (886) have increased by few points over 2001, while states like Delhi (866), Uttaranchal (886), Maharashtra (883), Uttar Pradesh (899), Rajasthan (883) and Jammu and Kashmir (859) have dipped further from 2001 levels.

Child Sex Ratio Over The Years

S.No. State/Uts 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011(Prov.)
India 964 962 945 927 914
1 Jammu & Kashmir 959 964 NA 941 859
2 Himachal Pradesh 981 971 951 896 906
3 Punjab 899 908 875 798 846
4 Chandigarh 892 907 899 845 867
5 Uttaranchal NA NA 949 908 886
6 Haryana 899 902 879 819 830
7 Delhi 909 926 915 868 866
8 Rajasthan 932 954 916 909 883
9 Uttar Pradesh 923 935 927 916 899
10 Bihar 964 981 953 942 933
11 Sikkim 1087 978 965 963 944
12 Arunachal Pradesh 968 997 982 964 943
13 Nagaland 991 988 993 964 944
14 Manipur 986 986 974 957 934
15 Mizoram NA 986 969 964 971
16 Tripura 977 972 967 966 953
17 Meghalaya 992 991 986 973 970
18 Assam 1002 NA 975 965 957
19 West Bengal 1010 981 967 960 950
20 Jharkhand NA NA 979 965 943
21 Orissa 1020 995 967 953 934
22 Chattisgarh NA NA 984 975 964
23 Madhya Pradesh 976 977 941 932 912
24 Gujarat 946 950 928 883 886
25 Daman & Diu NA NA 958 926 909
26 Dadra & Nagar Haveli 1021 995 1013 979 924
27 Maharashtra 972 956 946 913 883
28 Andhra Pradesh 990 992 975 961 943
29 Karnataka 976 974 960 946 943
30 Goa 964 965 964 938 920
31 Lakshadweep 929 964 941 959 908
32 Kerala 978 970 958 960 958
33 Tamil Nadu 974 967 948 942 946
34 Pondicherry 978 975 963 967 965
35 Andaman & Nicobar Islands 978 978 973 957 966

Note: For 1971, the figure of Goa includes Daman & Diu; The figures of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh for 1971 and 1981 include the figures of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal, respectively; For Jammu & Kashmir, 1991 Census data is not available; The 2001 figure for Manipur excludes figures of Paomata, Mao Maram and Purul Sub Divisions of Senapati district; The 2011 census figures are provisional.

(PIB Features)

Inputs from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.