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New Delhi: Come Saturday, all unregistered ultrasound machines and scanners that can detect the sex of an unborn child will be seized and the “service provider” be liable for fine and imprisonment.
A first-time offender will pay a fine of Rs 10,000 and face a maximum three-year jail term. If the offence is repeated, the guilty person must cough up Rs 50,000 as fine and will be jailed for five years.
The Union health ministry amended the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act on Thursday to enforce these stringent steps. At present, if irregularities are found in any clinic and a machine seized, its owner can reclaim it against a fine.
Seized ultrasound machines won’t be returned: Official
New Delhi: Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday okayed the amendment to the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act. However, a formal notification is likely to come on Saturday, coinciding with the Central Supervisory Board (CSB) meeting that will take stock of India’s skewed sex ratio.
Currently, rule 11 (II) of the PNDT Act 1996 says, “The appropriate authority or officer authorized may seal and seize any ultrasound machine, scanner or any other equipment capable of detecting the sex of a foetus used by any organization if the organization hasn’t got itself registered under the PNDT Act.” It further states, “These machines of organizations may be released if such an organization pays a penalty equal to five times the registration fee to the appropriate authority and gives an undertaking that it shall not undertake detection of sex before and after conception.” The amended rule says, “These machines will be confiscated and further action taken as per section 23 of the PNDT Act for non-registration.”
A health ministry official told TOI, “Every ultrasound machine in India has to be registered under the PNDT Act. Earlier, a company or a person having an unregistered ultrasound machine would pay Rs 20,000 (five times the registration fee) and take back the machine. But now, confiscated machines will not be returned. Also, the owner of the machine will face both a fine and a jail term.”
Until March 2011, there were 41,182 registered ultrasound clinics in India. The 2011 Census showed that India’s child sex-ratio had dipped to 914 girls as against 927 per 1,000 boys recorded in the 2001 Census. This is the worst dip in sex ratio since 1947. India has shortlisted 18 states that have been hit the hardest by the skewed sex ratio.
Some of the functions of the CSB, headed by Azad, are to advise the Centre on policy matters relating to the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, sex-selection techniques and against their misuse and to review and monitor the implementation of the PNDT Act.