search engines

More than a year later, search engines Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing have been pulled up again by the Supreme Court for displaying ads for sex determination kits and clinics which perform them, reports CNET. The court had directed the search engines to not show any pre-natal sex determination test ads in their search results in an interim order in January 2015.

The court criticized the companies for not being able to stop the ads and said that they could not continue “illegal activity in the name of being an intermediary”, as indicated by this ANI report. Lawyers for the search engines said it was technically not feasible to block all the key words relating to sex determination as it would affect searches for content remotely connected to such words, the Economic Times reported.

The ANI report also added that the SC asked the government to come up with a memorandum in the matter immediately and that the next hearing would be on July 25.

The central government had said that pre-natal sex determination is an offence in India but it is not so in other countries and the information in these websites is hosted offshore and  is aimed at a wider audience. Therefore blocking such websites may not be feasible and desirable, a 2010 counter affidavit read when the matter was brought up in December 2014. 

The PIL: The PIL was filed by one Sabu Mathew George in 2008 and the litigant sought a ban on online content on pre-natal sex determination which are in violation of the provisions of the pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic techniques (prohibition of sex selection) Act, 1994. Search giants Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have been arraigned as respondents in the suit along with the central government.

The law: According to the prohibition of sex selection Act, any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document through media in electronic or print form can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs 10,000. (PDF here)