Don't advertise pre-natal sex selection technology: Microsoft tells SC

Don't advertise pre-natal sex selection technology: Microsoft tells SC

Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt Ltd, which runs 'Bing.com' search engine, today submitted before the Supreme Court that it never advertised any pre-natal sex selection technologies on its website in violation of Indian laws.

The internet giant, in its fresh additional affidavit, however, said it will be "unfair and illegal" to expect that it will block all contents which can be reached through its search engine. Moreover, blocking contents of others is not "technically feasible", it said.

The response was filed by the internet firm before a bench of justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit which has been hearing a batch of PILs filed by Sabu Mathew George and NGO Voluntary Health Association of Punjab on issues including decreasing numbers of girl child in the country.

Earlier, the court had said that an effort has to be made to ensure that websites like Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt Ltd do not show contents in violation of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act that prohibits sex determination of a foetus.

"The answering respondent (Microsoft Corporation (India) Pvt Ltd) does not and has never advertised any sex selection technologies/gender selection tool kits on 'Bing.com' or MSN search engines, as alleged or at all, either in violation of the PC-PNDT Act...," the affidavit said.

The affidavit also referred to the manner in which its search engine operates.

"By way of an analogy, I state the activity performed by the search engines is similar to the index prepared by a library, where a reader can find the books that deal with the subject matters of interest of the reader, pursuant to looking up to the index. The difference is here--the index is to 'books' the library does not own or possess," it said.

The affidavit said the petitioner was confusing search results, which show the general content of the internet, with advertising.

"The answering respondent submits that section 22 of the PC-PNDT Act prohibits advertisement and it has already put in place a policy to ensure that, since that alone is within the control of the answering respondent. While the answering respondent can be expected to do things which are in its control, it will be unfair and illegal for the petitioner to expect the answering respondent to block all contents, which in any event is technically not feasible," it said.

Earlier, the court had expressed unhappiness over a 2010 affidavit of the Centre that it cannot block such contents on websites as pre-natal sex determination is not an offence in other countries and moreover, these sites have servers outside India.

It had also asked an official of the Department of Information and Technology to assist Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar in finding a way to stop illegal contents on websites.

Meanwhile, the bench granted time to NGO Voluntary Health Association of Punjab to file its response to the information provided by Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi on the sex ratio in these states.

The court had earlier come down heavily on various states for their failure to stop female foeticide leading to alarming drop in the sex ratio in the country.

The NGO has said there is "severe decline" in sex-ratio and almost all the states, which have filed the affidavits, have admitted to this.

The apex court had on March 4 last year directed the Centre and state governments to take quick and tough action against people indulging in female foeticide and passed a slew of directions for effective implementation of PNDT Act.

It had directed the governments to map all ultra- sonography clinics within three months and asked the lower courts to dispose all cases for violation of the Act within a period of six months to bring the accused to book.

It had also said that a special cell be constituted by the state governments and the Union Territories to monitor the progress of various cases pending in courts under the Act and take steps for their early disposal.

The average count of girl child (0-6 years) in the country has dropped to 914 per 1000 boys as per the Census 2011 which was earlier 927 in the 2001 Census.

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