Supreme Court says No bar on use of internet for information, knowledge

The Supreme Court on Thursday said the right to access information, knowledge and wisdom on internet cannot be curtailed unless it violates the statutory provisions prohibiting propagation and advertisement of sex determination techniques.

A bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar said that nobody needs to infer that the ban on sex determination advertisements on internet also implies curbs on accesing internet to get any other information.

The court was hearing a plea by petitioner Sabu Mathew George seeking curbs on the advertisement of clinics conducting gender-determination tests, which is adversely affecting the sex ratio in the country.

The court in order said that what had been stayed was only with regard to the violation of Section 22 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 that prohibits advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and provides for punishment for its violation.

The court noted that the Centre and the state governments have appointed nodal officers, who would look into the complaints about the violation of prohibition on the advertisement of sex-determination techniques and act on them.

It also noted that the three internet search engines – Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation (India) Ltd – have appointed their own in-house experts to screen the contents and ascertain if they violated the provision of law prohibiting the advertisement of sex determination techniques.

The court also noted the statements by the senior counsel for three internet search engines that they have never indulged in any kind of advertisement as contemplated under the said Act, nor do they have any intention to cause any violation of the said mandate.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, and Anupam Lal Das appeared for the Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt Ltd, Google India and Yahoo India, respectively.

It further recorded the statements by the counsel for three search engines that they do not intend to take an adversarial position but on the contrary would play a participative and co-operative role, so that the law made by Parliament to control sex selection and to enhance the sex ratio is respected.