Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act


  • Recently, a section of the media is speculating that the (Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act 1994 has been suspended by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHWF).

About the Issue

  • In view of the ongoing lockdown, due of COVID19 pandemic, the Health Ministry has issued a Notification dated April 4, 2020 to defer/suspend certain provisions under the PC&PNDT Rules 1996.
  • These Rules pertain to applying for renewal of registration if falling due in this` period, submission of reports by diagnostics centres by 5th day of the following month and submission of quarterly progress report (QPR) by the States/UTs.
  • There is no exemption (to the diagnostic centres) from compliance to theprovisions of the PC&PNDT Act.
  • So, the MoHFW has to clarify that it has not suspended the PC&PNDT Act, which prohibits sex selection before or after conception.

Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994

  • It was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.
  • 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.

Objectives

  • To ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception
  • To prevent the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex selective abortion and to regulate such techniques

Provisions

  • Registration: All bodies under the PC & PNDT Act, 1994, namely Genetic Counselling Centres, Genetic Laboratories or Genetic Clinics cannot function unless registered.
  • Prohibitions: It prohibits sex selection before or after conception and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for determination of the sex of the foetus as also advertisements in relation to such techniques for detection or determination of sex.
  • 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).
  • Maintenance & Preservation of Records: It deals elaborately with the maintenance and preservation of proper records. 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: It provides power to 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.
  • 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.
  • Conducting a PND test for any purpose other than those mentioned as permissible in the Act.
  • Sale, distribution, supply, renting, allowance or authorization of use of any ultrasound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of a foetus to non-registered units.
  • Advertisement or communication in any form on the availability of sex determination and sex selection in the form of services, medicines, or any kind of techniques, methods or ayurvedic medicines.
  • The offences under the Act are cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.

Amendments

  • The Act was amended in 2003 to improve regulation of technology capable of sex selection.
  • 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.

Implications of the Amendment

  • Amendment of the act mainly covered bringing the technique of pre conception sex selection within the ambit of the act
  • Bringing ultrasound within its ambit
  • Empowering the central supervisory board, constitution of state level supervisory board
  • Provision for more stringent punishments
  • Empowering appropriate authorities with the power of civil court for search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of the violators
  • Regulating the sale of the ultrasound machines only to registered bodies

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, April, 2020