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It takes two to tango. It takes two to make a bargain. It takes two to make a Quarrel. And it takes two to conduct sex determination in the country despite having there being stringent laws against it.
With the government proposing recent amendments to the PC-PNDT Act, just a glance at it shows that the Act will now be more stringent and more stricter on the medical professionals in an effort to curb their participation in the act of sex determination. The penalties are higher, the conformities are higher, the lab coats are mandatory. Even the rules for the manufacturers are stricter bringing them to record, every sale, buy back, every resale, even discards under the ambit of the act. With some officials equating the Ultrasound machine to that of a gun, government wants to leave no-stone unturned in bringing all the parties concerned accountable under the act. All, but one- that is the patient itself.
PC-PNDT Act came about in the year 1994 to address the declining sex ratio in the country with the aim for bringing ecological balance through a nationwide ban on the determination of sex in the country.PC-PNDT Act comes down harshly on all participants involved in the Act of Sex determination, but for the patient itself. Even the patient’s relatives, including the husband are under the scanner. Chapter three of the Act Clearly states;-
“ No person including a relative or husband of the pregnant woman shall seek or encourage the conduct of any prenatal diagnostic techniques on her except for the purpose specified in Clause (2)”
With this as well, the Act remains silent or ambiguous on the fact whether the pregnant lady is herself accountable for the act or not. In practise, no action/sting operation/penalty/jail has ever been against a pregnant women indulging in sex determination in the country. There is indeed a humanitarian argument to it- No mother wants to take her child’s life and in India, vulnerable pregnant ladies are forced to go through such acts under grave pressure from other members of the society.
While this argument holds its stern ground in the indian context, another humanitarian argument- one that of the unborn child is often neglected as pregnant ladies are allowed to go scot free in the ambit of the Act.
With the invite of amendments right around the corner, it has indeed struck a strong debate among the medical fraternity- Whether a consumer/pregnant lady should be brought under the ambit of the act or not?
You have tied one arm, but allowed the other free movement. How will that achieve any purpose?
The Argument laid by many in the medical professionals is pretty Straightforward.
“Any violation to the Act involves two parties, one the medical profession and the other is the patient/consumer herself. While the medical profession is punishable with the act, the patient is allowed to go scot free. Till the consumer is not made party to the crime of this violation of this act, she/he as interested party shall always find a gullible professional to do this heinous act for a price”
” The problem starts with the patient and their family. Female foeticide, sex determination all these are first social issues, and then medical ones. It’s been almost 24 years since the Act came into place. And Ironically sex ratio, instead of showing an improvement has gone down the drains in some places. That clearly means that the act is failing if not already failed actually.” Said Dr OP Bansal, President IRIA
“The crime does not actually end with sex determination. That’s where the story begins. Once determined, people then go for foeticide. While the medical professional change at all these points, the patient is common. If the patient is made responsible under the act, it will definitely put a stop to this rising menace in the country,” Dr Nidhi Bhatnagar,a leading radiologist of the country said.
The doctors are demanding that under the proposed amendments section 23(1) of the act, which deals with the penalities leading to offences, the amendment should include the word patient, so as to bring the patient herself under the ambit of the act. The new penalties if approved would imply a minimum three years jail or a maximum penalty of Rs 50000 or both.