Delhi High Court: Mukta Gupta, J., held that, the Metropolitan Magistrate/ Judicial Magistrate of the first class is competent to take cognizance and try the offence punishable under the PC&PNDT Act on the complaint of an Appropriate Authority or any officer authorised on this behalf by the Central Government or the State Government or the Appropriate Authority under sub-Section (1) of Section 28 of the Pre-Conception and Pre Natal-Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
Petitioners sought to quash the complaint by the Appropriate Authority for violation of Rules 4 and 9 of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules, 1996 (PC&PNDT Rules) punishable under Section 23 of the Pre-Conception and Pre Natal-Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 and the proceedings pursuant thereto including framing of charges against the petitioners.
Question for Consideration
Whether cognizance of the complaint filed by a single member of Appropriate Authority is illegal warranting quashing of the complaint and proceedings pursuant thereto?
On a perusal of Section 28 of PC&PNDT Act, it is evident that the Metropolitan Magistrate/Judicial Magistrate of the first class is competent to take cognizance and try the offence punishable under this Act on the complaint of an Appropriate Authority or any officer authorized in this behalf by the Central or State Government or the Appropriate Authority under Section 28(1). Further, the complaint could also be filed by any person who gave notice of fifteen days to the Appropriate Authority.
Central Government and the State Government can even authorize an officer other than the Appropriate Authority to file a complaint on which cognizance can be taken by the Court.
In the present matter, the complaint against the petitioner had been filed by Dr Aruna Jain was a single member authority.
The Bench stated that since the cognizance of the complaint of an Appropriate Authority or an officer authorized on this behalf is a sine qua non for taking cognizance of an offence under the PC&PNDT Act, the Appropriate Authority should be validly appointed.
The notification dated 4-7-2003 issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Union of India appointing a three-member Appropriate Authority for the Union Territory of Delhi is in the exercise of its power conferred under clause (a) of sub-Section 3 of Section 17 PC&PNDT Act and not in respect of clause (b) of sub-Section 3 of Section 17 of the PC&PNDT Act.
High Court noted that the functions assigned by the appropriate authority are multifarious and in view, thereof the Act contemplating appropriate authorities at the State level and District, or part of the State level is duly conceived by Sections 17 (3) (a) and Section 17 (3) (b) PC&PNDT Act.
Hence, every time when a raid is conducted in different areas of the State, it cannot be accepted that an officer of the Department of Law will be available every time.
In view of the plain language of Section 17(3)(b) PC&PNDT Act, it cannot be held that even for part of State, a Multi Member Committee would be a validly constituted Appropriate Authority.
Therefore, by giving a purposive construction to Section 17(b) and (c) of the Act, the acts performed by the Appropriate Authority of filing complaints pursuant to valid notification cannot be quashed.
The Bench added that, incomplete and improper maintenance of records are indicative of the fact that ultrasound was being done without keeping proper records for concealment of facts so that unwanted pregnancies for particular sex can be terminated, there is thus clear violence of PC & PNDT Act and MTP Act.
High Court found no ground to quash the complaint filed by the respondent and the proceedings thereto. [Manish Gupta v. State NCT of Delhi, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 1154, decided on 22-4-2022]
Advocates before the Court:
For the petitioner: Mr. Amardeep Singh, Adv. with Ms. Shruti Khosla, Adv.
For the respondent: Mr. Rajesh Mahajan, ASC for State with Ms. Jyoti Babbar, Ms. Shrutika Vedi, Advs. With SI Vineet Kumar, P.S. Timarpur
Mr. Anil Soni, CGSC for UOI