Supreme Court’s Order: Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Bing search engines dilemma

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The top popular search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Bing were ordered by India’s Apex Court to stop displaying ads for sex determination tests. Despite sex determination tests are banned, abortion of female child is a growing problem. This order was based on a Public Interest Litigation which said that the pre-birth sex determination tests are illegal. Justice Dipak Misra and PC Pant ordered these search engines to state clearly in their website that they do not carry on any ads or display any such links on prenatal diagnostic tests. Their counsel insisted that no law of the nation was violated by these search engines.

The court strictly advised the above mentioned companies, not to advertise or sponsor any advertisement on its search engine that violates the Act. Shyam Divan represented Google, Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan for Microsoft and Anupam Lal Das for Yahoo. On its next hearing on February 11, 2015 the apex court said it will give further detailed instructions. The lawyers representing these search engines argued that all content related to the topic of sex determination will not be shown if they block key words that allow the ads to pop up on their search engines. They also resisted the onus of taking action against websites by the government which were hosting such content.

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The apex court ruled that these kind of advertisements violate the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act of 1994. The Supreme Court  said “India is suffering so much because of sex ratio. Still there is a state of antipathy.”In an interview to BBC, technology writer Prasanto K Roy told enforcing ban would be very difficult, if not impossible. Court also took on record an additional affidavit filed by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, which said that the government could only block an information once the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) was known.

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Mr Modi during his campaign ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ (Save the girl educate the girl) for the girl child said in his speech in Haryana, girl child is commonly killed in the mother’s womb and we do not have a right to kill our daughters. According to UN data, India’s child sex ratio dropped from 964 in 1971 to a low of 918 in 2011. Sex determination although illegal it is still practiced in India that it is contending with a severe male – female ratio. The 1994 Pre-Natal Determination Test (PNDT) Act outlawed sex-selective abortion which was amended in 2004. Around 40,000 registered ultrasound clinics exist in the country. Abortion is generally legal up to 12 weeks’ gestation in India. 14 weeks onwards sex of the child can be determined by a scan.