The Supreme Court on Monday declined to stay the Department of Health and Family Welfare's April 4 notification whereby certain rules under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act were temporarily suspended.
A bench headed by Justice U.U. Lalit issued notice on the plea challenging the notification, but refused to stay it.
"See the kind of difficult situation the country is in... lot of medical professionals, doctors, required for all this work... we are in a national emergency and the relaxation is also only till June 30," the bench observed, referring to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The apex court, however, allowed petitioner Sabu Mathew George, appearing through senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, to raise the issue, if it was renewed beyond June 30.
Justice Lalit told Parikh: "You come back to us if the order is not withdrawn on June 30. As of now, we are not staying the order."
After issuing notice, the top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing in the third week of July.
Claiming certain relaxations in the Act would result in rampant sex determination tests, George had challenged the April 4 notification suspending certain "time sensitive rules with deadlines" under the law that prohibits sex determination before or after conception in view of the pandemic's outbreak.
The notification suspended rules 8, 9(8) and 18 A (6) of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, (PC/PNDT Act). All these rules are to do with certain administrative procedures.
The petition argued that the notification could be misused by unscrupulous sections to conduct sex determination tests freely.
It contended the notification is without jurisdiction and a nullity as the PCPNDT Act does not provide any powers for the suspension of the rules made there under, thereby making the act of the Central government illegal.
"The action of the Central Government in suspending certain Rules under the PCPNDT Act, 1994, despite not having the power to do so, violates Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution, as (in addition to being without jurisdiction), the Central Government has arbitrarily and selectively weakened a legislation aimed at curbing the pernicious activity of sex-selection and sex-determination," said the plea.
The Health Ministry, however, contended that the notification will not dilute the spirit or application of the law in any form, and that sex determination is still strictly prohibited, and the suspension of the three rules doesn't mean the suspension of the Act.
( With inputs from IANS )