Image Credit: Flickr User Thomas Hobbs under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Supreme Court of India has once again pulled up search giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo for the sixth time over online sex-determination ads, reports Bar and Bench. The court asked the companies to set up an in-house search mechanism to remove online search results which go counter to Section 22 of the Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 (Act).

the “In-House Expert Body” that is directed to be constituted, if not already constituted, shall on its own understanding delete anything that violates the letter and spirit of language of Section 22 of the 1994 Act and, in case there is any doubt, they can enter into a communication with the Nodal Agency appointed by the Union of India and, thereafter, they will be guided by the suggestion of the Nodal Agency of the Union of India,” the order read.

Advocates representing Google, Microsoft and Yahoo opposed the order and said that in-house mechanism will not be able to monitor the entire Internet and will also open potential litigations. However, the advocates said that they were ready to comply with directions of the nodal agency.

In November, the court asked the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to set up a nodal agency to help ensure search engines do not show commercial advertisements or research material on sex determination tests online. Previously, the counsels for the search engines argued that the term advertisement should only be considered in the commercial sense and that search engine results do not count as ads, and a blanket ban would lead to blocking other information as well including scholarly articles related to research.

Google carries an advisory ad on searches related to sex determination. “Per the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, pre-conception or pre-natal sex determination is illegal in India. Per the Google AdWords policy and the AdWords Terms and Conditions, advertisers are not permitted to advertise services or goods that can be used for gender or sex determination, before or after conception,” the ad reads.

The law: According to the prohibition of sex selection Act, any person who puts an advertisement for prenatal and preconception 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)