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Decoys and Mukhbirsresulted in maximum number of convictions under PC&PNDT Act, study

A first ever study on the effectiveness of decoys and mukhbirs (informers) schemes under the Pre-Conception &Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act, 1994 has shown that these schemes have resulted in a large number of convictions.

As high as 77% of the total convictions under this Act, aimed at preventing sex-selective abortions, were due to information provided by decoys and mukhbirs. A total of 291 convictions have been reported under PC&PNDT Act between 1994 to December 2015. Of these, 85 convictions were reported from Rajasthan, 76 from Maharashtra and 63 in Haryana.

The report “Decoys & Mukhbirs: The unutilized instruments for enforcement of the PC&PNDT ACT’’ says that these convictions are not a mere coincidence but a reflection of effective implementation of the scheme. The report has been brought out by the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

“”The Appropriate Authorities (AAs) established under the PC&PNDT Act can find out violations such as non registration of the diagnostic centres, non-display of the registration certificate at a prominent place, non-maintenance of the records, non-filing of the forms but nabbing those conducting sex selections during the act requires a pregnant woman willing to act as decoy customer. Despite recognizing indispensability of the decoys and Mukhbirs, no national scheme has been launched,’’ says the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The report examined the decoy and Mukhbir schemes in 12 States including Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

There are no dedicated staffs to ensure proper implementation of the schemes. Rajasthan is the only State which has established PC&PNDT Bureau of Investigation and the Commissioner of Health of Gujarat informed the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in November 2014 that successful sting operations could not be carried out because of “non-availability of dedicated staff to undertake sting operation, the report points out adding that  publicity and awareness campaigns about the dedicated telephone help lines, websites and cash rewards for reporting cases of illegal sex determination and female foeticide have been extremely limited, leading to failure of the schemes.

Indeed, Secretary to the Health Department,  Madhya Pradesh in its letter dated 15.11.2016 to all District Magistrates of the State acknowledged the lack of awareness about its complaint scheme.

The number of sting operations conducted using decoy customers and informers have been very few vis-a-vis magnitude of sex selection i.e. about 12.5 million girls missing every year. Though sting operations are not indicative of successful detection of the violations of the PC&PNDT Act, as per information collated in this report, in Rajasthan, 52 decoy operations were conducted as on 20.12.2016; in Maharashtra, 67 decoy operations were conducted as on 31.12.2013; in Haryana eight decoys were awarded as of 2012; in Tamil Nadu one decoy operation was reported in 2016; in Gujarat 14 decoy operations were conducted as of October 2014; in Punjab two decoy operations were conducted in 2016; in Odisha only one decoy operation was conducted in September 2012; in Madhya Pradesh only two informers were rewarded as on 19.01.2016; in Uttar Pradesh 52 decoy operations were undertaken as on 31.03.2015; and in Jammu and Kashmir, only one decoy operation was conducted since 2011.

The schemes for dedicated telephone help lines, websites and cash rewards for reporting cases of illegal sex determination and female foeticide do not address circumstances which turn the witnesses hostile including intimidation, reprisal and counter-cases filed against the decoy customers. Monetary reward of as low as Rs. 5,000 offered by Odisha is not attractive enough considering the risks involved in conducting sting operations to nab those conducting sex determination or female foeticide. Though the Government of Odisha admitted that “the money offered is negligible and this turns away most volunteer’’ instead of increasing the reward money, the Odisha government altogether abandoned the programme on sting operations involving the decoys!

Most State Governments do not have specific budgetary allocations for the scheme. Some State Governments made very meagre allocations. Odisha Government allocated Rs 40,000 for the Financial Year 2012-13 for a total of eight sting operations at the rate of Rs 5,000 per sting operation.

With the exception of Rajasthan, none of the State governments has made any scheme for ensuring retention of yet-to-born baby of the pregnant woman participating in a decoy operation. In 2015, Rajasthan revised its Mukhbir Scheme to provide that “Provisions should be made to give an insurance policy to the yet-to-be-born baby of the pregnant woman participating in a decoy operation.’’

The report further says that sting operations using decoys has failed as the Appropriate Authorities in certain States like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu announced in advance in which districts sting operations would be conducted and consequently no sex determination and/or sex selection could be detected during subsequent sting operations as potential violators of the PC&PNDT Act were alerted in advance.

Also,  there is no specific time frame for the AAs to take actions on the complaints/information received by the AAs against sex selection. There are also no complaint mechanisms against the AAs who can act as law unto themselves with respect to complaints or information submitted as no court shall take cognizance of an offence under the PC&PNDT Act except on a complaint made by the AAs as per Section 28(1)(a). The courts can take cognizance only if the AAs fail to take action in not less than fifteen days. There have been numerous cases of unscrupulous AAs alerting the doctors, sonologists, and diagnostic centres before the inspection. This not only aborted the sting operations but left the decoys and at risks including for counter-prosecution from the doctors, sonologists, and diagnostic centres. The PC&PNDT Amendment Rules of 2014 which outlined the code of conduct for the authorities under the PC&PNDT Act do not have any mechanism to establish accountability of the AAs.

Pointing out that the decoy and mukhbir schemes do not address judicial delay and problems faced by them during the trials including no assistance to attend each hearing, the report says this is despite that of the 291 convictions as on December 2015, 137 convictions during 2013 and 111 convictions during 2015 took place only after the directions of the Supreme Court on 4 March 2013 in Voluntary Health Association of Punjab vs Union of India and Others to dispose of all pending cases under the PC&PNDT Act within a period of six months.

“”A number of State governments have suggested extreme measures like invoking the National Security Act or provisions of the Indian Penal Code relating to homicide and death penalty to combat the scourge of sex selection. Yet, most State governments have not focused on the most basic issue: the need for streamlining and strengthening the role of the decoys and informers without whom the PC&PNDT Act cannot be effectively enforced,’’ the Asian Centre for Human Rights has said while recommending launching of a “National Decoy and Mukhbir Yojana’’ for implementation of the PC&PNDT Act and amendment of the PC&PNDT Rules to establish mechanisms for prompt action on information and complaints received on sex selection.”

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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