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Overview of the Law Relating to Pre-Natal Diagnostic Tests in India

In India, the regulation of pre-natal diagnostic tests is governed by the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (PCPNDT Act). This law was instituted to curb the alarming rate of female foeticide and infanticide spurred by a societal preference for male children.

The Essence of PCPNDT Act, 1994

The PCPNDT Act, 1994, aims to prohibit sex selection and the misuse of pre natal diagnostic tests for sex determination leading to female foeticide. It seeks to regulate the usage of such techniques and prevent their abuse, thereby promoting a gender-balanced society.

Key Provisions of the Act

  1. Prohibition of Sex Selection (Section 3): This section explicitly bans sex selection before or after conception, thereby making it illegal to conduct any procedure or technique for the purpose of determining the sex of the unborn child.

  2. Regulation of Genetic Counselling Centres, Laboratories and Clinics (Section 4): This provision requires all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories and genetic clinics to be registered. It also mandates them to maintain proper records and follow standards set by the Act.

  3. Prohibition of Advertisement (Section 22): The Act prohibits advertising for sex selection techniques and the promotion of materials, objects, or medical techniques for the purpose of pre-natal sex determination.

  4. Penalties for Violations (Section 23): The Act prescribes strict penalties for violating its provisions, including imprisonment and hefty fines.

Landmark Cases Related to PCPNDT Act

Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) & Ors vs. Union of India (UOI) & Ors (2003)

The Supreme Court of India directed that all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories and genetic clinics should be registered and stringently regulated under the Act, considering the rampant misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex determination and female foeticide.

Voluntary Health Association of Punjab vs. Union of India & Ors (2013)

The Supreme Court issued guidelines to strengthen the implementation of the Act and emphasized the importance of awareness campaigns to change societal attitudes towards female children.

Implications and Impact of the Act

The PCPNDT Act represents a vital step towards protecting the rights of the girl child in India. It not only criminalizes the unethical practice of sex selection but also regulates pre-natal diagnostic tests to prevent their misuse. However, the Act’s effective implementation remains challenging due to societal norms favouring male children and lax regulatory enforcement in some regions.

Amendments to the Act

The PCPNDT Act has been amended over the years to make it more effective. Notably, the amendment in 2003 expanded the Act's scope to include pre-conception techniques like sperm sorting and in vitro fertilization, thereby making it the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act.

Conclusion: Law Relating to Pre Natal Diagnostic Tests in India

The PCPNDT Act is a monumental law relating to pre natal diagnostic tests in the protection of women's rights in India. It attempts to challenge the entrenched patriarchal norms that devalue the lives of female children. Through a clear ban on sex selection and the regulation of pre-natal diagnostic tests, it seeks to create an equal and non-discriminatory society. Despite its challenges, the PCPNDT Act stands as a beacon of hope for a balanced and inclusive India.

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