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The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-selection) Act, 1994

The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-selection) Act, 1994 was enacted on 20th September, 1994. The Act aims to curb social menace of sex determination and female foeticide in particular. The Act also provides for regulation of pre natal diagnostic methods to determine genetic and chromosomal disorders. The act was followed by the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection) Rules, 1996 which were enacted to further enhance the efficacy of the Act. The Act is divided into eight chapters.

The Act lays definition of some of the important terms such as embryo defined as developing human being after fertilization till end of eight weeks, foetus shall mean an organism beginning to develop after fifty seventh day till the birth. Apart from these the definitions of terms such as genetic clinic, genetic counselling centre, genetic laboratory, gynaecologist, sex selection etc have also been defined under chapter I of the Act.

Chapter II of the Act lays guidelines as to regulate genetic counselling centres, genetic clinics and genetic laboratories. Section 3 of the Act strictly lays that no genetic counselling centres; genetic laboratories and genetic clinics shall conduct pre natal diagnostic techniques in any manner and employ people unless registered under the Act. The section also applies to gynecologist, pediatrician or a medical practitioner conducting pre natal diagnostic techniques. Section 3 A of the Act is specifically important since it prohibits sex determination in any manner and through any mode on both man and woman. No ultra-sound machine or any other device capable of determining sex of a foetus shall be sold to clinics not registered under the Act.

The Act provides for regulation of pre natal diagnostic technique under chapter III. It lays certain instances when pre natal diagnostic techniques can be utilised for determining genetic metabolic diseases, chromosomal abnormalities, haemoglobinopathies, congenital anomalies, sex-linked genetic diseases and any such abnormalities or diseases as may be specified by the Central Supervisory Board. The determination of genetic disorders shall be conducted only by a registered and qualified medical practitioner which shall be conducted only if any of the conditions laid under section 4 sub clause (3) are fulfilled. The necessary conditions are if the woman has undergone two or more abortions, pregnant women have been exposed to harmful radiations, family history of ab-normalcy. Person conducting the diagnosis shall keep complete record of the patient. The pre natal diagnosis shall be done only with the consent of women in writing and sex of the foetus or embryo shall not be communicated to woman as per section 6 of the Act.

Chapter IV of the Act mandates formation of central supervisory board which shall be headed by chairman who shall be minister in charge of the ministry or department of family welfare, vice chairman and other such members as per section 7 sub clause (2) of the Act. The board shall meet once in every six month and on any other occasion as required. The board shall also appoint employees as and when required. Section 14 of the Act lays down grounds of disqualification of members on ground of moral turpitude, insolvency, unsoundness of mind and dismissal from board. The function of the board shall be that of advisory and of supervisory nature and also to create public awareness. There shall also be state and union territory supervisory board.

The court shall also appoint appropriate authority for state and union territory consisting of three members who shall have power to suspend and grant licences. The committee shall also have powers with respect to summoning of person, production of documents and issuance of warrants.

The Genetic counselling, research centres and clinics shall be registered under chapter VI of the Act by forwarding an application for registration to appropriate committee who shall conduct inquiry where-after a certificate for registration shall be issued under section 19 of the Act. The licence may be cancelled suo motu by the appropriate committee or on receiving of complaint against the laboratory.

Chapter VII of the Act deals with punishment for acts committed in contravention of the provisions of the Act. Person publicizing genetic counselling centres and pre diagnostic centres shall be punished with imprisonment for three years and with fine of ten thousand rupees. Any person forcefully compels his wife to undergo pre natal diagnosis shall be guilty of abetment. Offences under the Act shall be non- bailable, cognizable and non compoundable. The Act is important in furtherance of prevention of sex determination and detection of genetic disorders.

by Vibhuti Nakta.