Only 6% of doctors held for sex-selection practices convicted
Only 6% of doctors held for sex-selection practices convictedKounteya Sinha, TNN Apr 20, 2011, 01.15am IST (Only around 6% of cases filed against doctors involved in sex-selection practices in the 17 states, which have the most skewed sex ratio, have ended up in convictions till date.)
NEW DELHI: Only around 6% of cases filed against doctors involved in sex-selection practices in the 17 states, which have the most skewed sex ratio, have ended up in convictions till date. According to Union health ministry's latest data — prepared for a crucial meeting of health secretaries of the 17 states on Wednesday — a total of 805 cases have been filed in court against doctors till March 31, ever since the revised Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act ( PC and PNDT Act) came into force. Only 55 convictions have been recorded since then. The rest of the cases are either in progress or dropped for "poor investigation and insufficient evidence against the accused". Convictions were highest in Haryana (23), followed by Punjab (22), Gujarat (4), Maharashtra (3), Delhi (2) and Chandigarh (1). Interestingly, the highest number of cases against doctors was filed in Rajasthan (161), but none has resulted in conviction. Maharashtra filed 139 cases, Punjab (112), Gujarat (82), Madhya Pradesh (70), Delhi (61), Uttar Pradesh and Haryana (54), Andhra Pradesh (19), Bihar (10), Uttaranchal (9), Chhattisgarh (5), Jharkhand (3) and Chandigarh (2). Gujarat leads the pack in sealing of ultrasound machines (168), followed by Haryana (133). While, Maharashtra sealed 82 machines, Rajasthan (76), Orissa (68), Delhi (48), Punjab (26), UP (37), Jharkhand (13) and Andhra Pradesh (12). "On Wednesday, the meeting will emphasize on following up on court cases, building a strong case for prosecution and putting in place the mechanism for legal assistance and engaging with state legal services authorities apart from training workshops for judiciary and public prosecutors," an official said. Union health ministry Ghulam Nabi Azad has been very proactive in rectifying the nation's shameful sex ratio. An official added, "India's conviction rates are shockingly low. That's because doctors who carry out the search and seizure operations aren't good with filing legal cases and presenting a full-proof investigation. Hence, violators go scot free." On Wednesday, these 17 states will be told by the Union health ministry to identify and map their worst-affected districts, blocks and even localities. Once identified, vigilance will be heightened in these places on doctors and clinics to "nab those involved in sex selection" in clinics or by use of portable ultrasound machines. In the meeting — the first since the provisional Census figures were released — the states will also be told to register every ultrasound clinic and machine (portable or stationary) being used as per the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC and PNDT Act). Violation of any provision in this Act will entail a three-year jail term and Rs 50,000 fine. "States will be told to approach ultrasound manufacturers as per the Act to identify how many machines have been sold and to whom," sources told TOI. Pressure will also be intensified on states to get every ultrasound clinic to fill up Form F. According to the Act, every radiologist is required to fill Form F before conducting an ultrasound on a would-be mother. The form has important questions, including the reason for conducting sonography along with details of the patient and the doctor. Clinics that carry our prenatal selection and selective abortion leave most of the details incomplete, deliberately skipping sections mentioning the doctor's name, signature, the patient's address, age of the fetus and record of the would-be mother's previous children. "A careful examination of the form — which doctor referred the patient and why, if the ground for an ultra sound test is vague and if it is self referred instead of a doctor — will tell us who is involved in sex determination," an official added. States will also be told to improve or put in place inter-state, and more importantly inter-border coordination for regulating ultrasound clinics in border districts. As per the agenda of the meeting, the states will be told to dedicate a PNDT cell in the state, follow up on court cases, set up of a state supervisory board, which will meet once every four months, notify a multi-member state appropriate authority and take action in case of default. At the district level, some states have given the district collector supreme power, search and seize illegal and unregistered ultra sound machines while other states have put the chief medical officer in charge. Workshops to sensitize judiciary, public prosecutors and advisory committees will also be held. A ministry official said, "The latest Census figures show that the female girl child is still a curse and unwanted. Their number has fallen to an all-time low since Independence. The sex ratio for 2011 stands at 914 girls — down from 927 girls for 1,000 boys in 2001."