Court bans search engines from adverts that tell foetus’ sex

SearchEnginesNEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday restrained Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, search engine websites, from advertising or sponsoring any advertisement relating to sex determination of foetus which would violate the provisions of Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Tests Act.

Giving this interim direction, a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant said: “If any advertisement is there on any search engine, the same shall be withdrawn forthwith by the respondent websites.”

The bench passed this order on a writ petition filed by social activist Sabu Mathew George seeking a direction to the Centre to ban such advertisements.

Accepting the submissions of counsel Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioner, the bench directed that this order be put immediately on the policy page as also on the page containing “terms and conditions of service” by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

The counsel had argued that the practice of eliminating female foetus by the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques across the country had led to the decline in the female child ratio and this should be put an end by banning such advertisements.

Earlier on behalf of the Centre, solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar submitted that the Union government could stop the presentation of any kind of thing that relates to sex selection and eventual abortion, if the URL and the I.P. addresses were given along with other information by the respondents, regard being had to the key words, namely, “pre-natal diagnostic tests for selection of sex before or after conception, pre-natal conception test, pre-natal diagnostic, pre-natal foetoscopy for sex selection, pre-natal ultrasonography for sex selection, sex selection procedure, sex selection technique, sex selection test, sex selection administration, sex selection prescription, sex selection services, sex selection management, sex selection process, sex selection conduct, pre-natal image scanning for sex selection, pre-natal diagnostic procedure for sex selection, sex determination using scanner, sex determination using machines, sex determination using equipment, scientific sex determination and sex selection”

He submitted that the respondents could effectively or regularly do such blocking/filtering on key-words advertisements links as they have access to their respective mathematical algorithms all the time. In essence, either the respondents could block themselves or on certain details being provided the Union of India could block it, he said.

Justice Dipak Misra observed, “India suffered so much on sex ratio and these search engines must provide the required info to the government.”

Senior counsel Shaym Divan and senior counsel K.V. Viswanathan, appearing for Google and Microsoft referred to Section 22 of the PCPNDTA and Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, submitted that throughout the world, the search engines had been directed to block certain service/giving of information which were not permissible to be shown in that country despite the issues of jurisdiction and technical problems being raised.

They argued that they were not violating any laws of the country and if Google or Microsoft “blocks using key words like sex, boy, girl, etc it will block other contents including the speech of Prime Minister on girl child or the Supreme Court orders.” Such a ban was not feasible, they said. The Bench said matters relating to total blocking of the items that have been suggested by the Union of India and providing the URL and IP addresses by Google, Yahoo and Micro Soft shall be taken up on 11.02.2015 when the matter shall be taken up for further hearing. – From The Asian Age

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