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SC summons health secretaries of 7 states over female feticide, infanticide

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Concerned over the drastic drop in the girl child ratio across the country, the Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from seven worst performing States and summoned their health secretaries. The Court wanted them to explain action taken by them against offenders who violated the PNDT Act that prohibits pre-natal sex determination.

The average count of the girl child (0-6 years) has dropped to 914 per 1,000 boys as per the Census 2011 from a relatively high level of 927 in the the 2001 Census. The apex bench of Justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra noted that the ration was particularly dismal in in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Delhi.

Issuing notice to the respective State Governments to respond by February 12, the bench directed the respective Health Secretaries to remain present in Court with statistics explaining action taken under the Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994.

Drawing a direct link between the fall in the female child ratio with the prevailing mindset to have a boy child, the bench said, "Society as a whole is not accepting equality between boy and girl." Attacking the superstition that hell awaits those who failed to conceive a boy, the bench added, "There has to be a change in this mindset."

The Voluntary Health Association of Punjab, which filed the PIL in apex court to highlight serious violations of PNDT Act, stated that when it came to matching the girl child ratio with that of boys, the above seven States/UTs fared the worst. "Any figure below 900 girls per 1000 boys is to be viewed seriously," said senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the NGO.

In Rajasthan, for instance, the ratio of female child was 909 in the previous census and  dropped to 883 in the 2011 count. Uttar Pradesh also recorded a drop  from 916 to 899, Bihar 942 to 933, and Delhi 868 to 867.  Maharashtra  witnessed a drastic slip from 913 to 883 in a decade, while e Punjab and Haryana recorded an increase from 798 to 846 and 819 to 830 respectively.

Three other states Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Madhya Pradesh, too fared badly on the census list.
In order to ascertain the effective implementation of the PNDT Act, the Court asked the Health Secretaries to present statistics on the number of persons booked under the Act since its inception, prosecutions pending and convictions achieved.

Gonsalves pointed out that prosecution figure was very low and only few cases yielded conviction. While the law provides for three years sentence, seldom do courts impose it as in majority cases, accused were let off with fine. Thus the Act failed to be a deterrent against female foeticide as intended by the legislature, Gonsalves said. He even accused the Centre of not conducting periodic reviews of state agencies under the Act, meant to supervise registration of clinics and centres conducting pre-natal diagnosis.

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