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The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay an order issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) suspending some provisions of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection Rules) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Court, however, issued notice to the Centre in the plea challenging this order. (Sabu Mathew George vs Union of India)
The Bench of Justices UU Lalit, MM Shantanagoudar, and Vineet Saran heard a PIL challenging the order passed in April.
The PIL filed by one Sabu Mathew George argued that this suspension of the Rules was entirely without jurisdiction. However, the Court pointed out that the order appears to have been passed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time there is a need for the "services of the doctors to be conserved for the pandemic."
The suspension of these Rules is in force till June 30, the Court pointed out. It granted liberty to the petitioner to raise the issue again should the suspension be extended beyond this date. Having said so, the Court also asked the Centre to file a response to the plea, and fixed the next date of hearing for the third week of July.
The Rules that stood suspended under the MoHFW's order pertain to Renewal Of Registration [Rule 8], Maintenance and Preservation of Record [Rule 9(8)], and Code of Conduct to be observed by the appropriate authorities [Rule 18A(6)].
The plea contends that by suspending these rules "without jurisdiction", the Centre has weakened a legislation that aims at curbing the practice of pre-natal sex-determination and sex-selection. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act aims to remedy a social evil pertaining to female foeticide and infanticide and this legislation has now been diluted by the Centre, the petition avers.
The dilution of the Rules will nullify the gains made by strict implementation of this Act which, the plea points out, was a direct consequence of the Supreme Court's orders.
It is further argued that the order is in effect till June 30, whereas the lockdown has been ended and we are now in a stage of Unlock-1. On the grounds of being passed without jurisdiction or justification, the order deserves to be struck down, the petition submits.
The petitioner was represented by Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh and the petition is filed through Advocate Srishti Agnihotri.