Activists glare at Maharashtra government’s plan to amend PCPNDT to allow for lighter penalty


Saturday, 23 May 2015
The proposal will be discussed before the state-level committee and finally sent to the Centre for necessary amendments. The official added that, however, there were no plans to change stringent punishments for serious offences like sex determination and female foeticide.

The state government is planning to amend stringent legal provisions in the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act to let off doctorsaccused of “minor” procedural errors with lighter punishments.

However, this is being opposed by activists who charge that this proposed “graded punishments” system is meant to spare unscrupulous doctors involved in sex determination and sex selection

“We are looking at modifying the Act to impose moderate punishments on doctors involved in minor clerical offences… if they are not involved in sex determination and female foeticide and have committed only procedural lapses, a mild penalty may be imposed,” said a senior health department official, hastening to add that this was still at the preliminary stage.

The proposal will be discussed before the state-level committee and finally sent to the Centre for necessary amendments. The official added that, however, there were no plans to change stringent punishments for serious offences like sex determination and female foeticide.

He said sometimes doctors commit mistakes due to heavy workload including errors in form F (details of pregnant woman and investigations conducted), not appending signatures, omitting a clause and not putting up a board stating that sex-determination tests were not being conducted.

The state is examining if these doctors can be let off after seeking a clarification and a subsequent reprimand instead of action extending to their ultrasound machines being sealed.

“We are seeking to make it watertight to ensure that the guilty do not benefit,” the official said, adding it was “impossible” for crimes like female foeticide and gender determination to occur without connivance of doctors.

“Graded punishments are meant to save doctors involved in these malpractices,” charged activist Varsha Deshpande of the Lek Ladki Abhiyaan, adding that it was incorrect to differentiate between minor and major offences under the Act.

She pointed out that the conviction rate under the PCPNDT Act was over 30% – much more than in dowry, rape and molestation cases – which had caused panic and led to these demands.

Health minister Dr Deepak Sawant could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

Dr Kishor Taori of the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) welcomed the proposed move and added that at times, genuine medical practitioners were harassed for minor lapses.

Maharashtra’s general sex ratio declined from 934 in 1991 to 922 in 2001 but marginally rose to 925 in 2011. In contrast, India’s sex ratio has increased from 927 in 1991 to 933 in 2011 and 940 in 2011. The state’s child sex ratio (ratio of girls to boys between zero to six years) has fallen from 946 in 1991 to 913 in 2001 and 883 in 2011 as against 914 in 2011, 927 in 2001 and 946 in 1991 for India.

The PCPNDT Act aims at preventing the misuse of pre-natal sex determination techniques for sex determination leading to female foeticide. It punishes errant medical professionals with imprisonment up to three years and a fine which may extend to Rs10,000 and subsequent conviction may see up to five-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 50,000.

A total of 530 court cases are lodged in various courts against PCPNDT violators, and of these, 206 cases are decided in which 82 doctors and five relatives have been convicted in 73 cases. In 57 cases, 66 doctors have been sentenced to imprisonment and penalty imposed in 16 cases.

Shockingly, the health department’s estimates, considering the average expected sex ratio of 952 and the child sex ratio of 883 in the 2011 census, indicate that Maharashtra may have seen around 4,68,680 female foeticide cases between 2001 and 2011, including 30,116 in Mumbai.

http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-activists-glare-at-maharashtra-government-s-plan-to-amend-pcpndt-to-allow-for-lighter-penalty-2088278

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