The two-justice bench, consisting of Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A. Abhishek Reddy, was responding to a public interest litigation filed before the High Court. They queried whether health department and law enforcement officials were aware of the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act which prohibits determining the sex of a foetus in utero and, if so, why laws were not being enforced in view of the numerous sex determination labs operating in the state.
The suit filed before the High Court contended that 2,000 sex determination labs operate in the Greater Hyderabad area alone, charging anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 apiece for performing such tests and, if the test reveals the foetus to be female, offering an abortion. Justice P. Naveen Rao, who wrote a letter to the judicial registrar prompting the High Court justices to take up the public interest litigation, went so far as to assert that “this is not possible without the active connivance of officials in the government departments.”
Numerous instances are reported regularly in India of sex determination rackets being cracked down on by the police. As just one example, two doctors and a rickshaw driver in the Rangreddy district of Telangana were booked in November for operating an illegal sex determination business, in which Rs 9,000 was being collected for each test. Both doctors confessed, with the rickshaw driver implicated for transporting women to the doctors to undergo the test.
Prenatal sex determination enables sex-selective abortion, which is a major driver of India’s imbalanced sex ratio and has resulted in India ‘missing’ 10.6 million girls and women between 1970 and 2017. “Foetal sex determination and sex-selective abortion by unethical medical professionals has today grown into a Rs. 1,000 crore industry (US$244 million)….spurred on by technological developments that today allow mobile sex selection clinics to drive into almost any village or neighbourhood unchecked,” reported UNICEF in 2017.
The state government is expected to respond in four weeks to respond on the matter of illicit sex determination labs.