New Delhi, April 15: Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have accepted that they would not sponsor any such advertisements and would play a “cooperative role” to respect the law enacted by the Parliament to prevent sex selection and enhance the sex ratio is “respected”.Citizens have a right to have Internet access and banning advertisements on pre-natal sex determination on websites do not curtail such rights, the Supreme Court said.
These search engines also told a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra that they have never indulged in any such advertisement as contemplated under section 22 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, and nor do they have any kind of intention to cause any violation of the legislation.
Section 22 of the 1994 Act pertains to the prohibition of advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and punishment for its contravention. They also told the bench that if the nodal officer, appointed by the central government, communicates to them regarding any offensive material posted on the Internet which is in contravention of section 22, they would block it.
“It is made clear that there is no need on the part of anyone to infer that it creates any kind of curtailment in his right to access information, knowledge and wisdom and his freedom of expression,” the bench, said. “What is stayed is only with regard to violation of section 22 of the Act. We may further add that freedom of expression included right to be informed and right to know and feeling of protection of expansive connectivity,” it added.
The apex court observed that “it is necessary to state that volumes of literature under various heads come within the zone of the Internet and in this virtual world the idea what is extremely significant is only connected”. The bench also said it has recorded the concession of the Centre as well as the search engines so that sanctity of the Act is maintained and there is no grievance to anyone that his curiosity for searching anything has been scuttled.
“To elaborate, if somebody intends to search for ‘Medical Tourism In India’ is entitled to search as long as the content does not frustrate or defeat the restriction postulated under section 22 of the Act,” it noted in its order. During the hearing, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for the Centre, said the government’s stand was very clear that search engines and websites cannot facilitate such advertisements.
“We have appointed nodal officers in each state. Hosting such advertisements is a penal offense under the Act,” he said, adding that a central nodal officer has also been appointed to look after the matter. “Anything which violates Indian law has to be deleted or taken off by these intermediaries,” he said.
Advocate Sanjay Parikh, representing the petitioner, told the bench that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo were bound to follow scrupulously what is being stated in section 22 of the Act and nothing offensive can be hosted on the websites.