The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked tech majors such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to block information from their search engines on online sex determination in India, and gave them 36 hours to do it. “If it’s found that there are certain words that facilitate sex determination, then those words should be deleted in 36 hours,” said the two-judge Bench. The apex court also asked the Centre to form a nodal agency that will keep a check on keywords used on search engines, reported ANI.

A member of the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee, Sabu Mathew George, had filed a public interest litigation earlier this year alleging that that sex-determination advertisements and links were freely available online. He had argued that these violated the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, and sought an intervention by the apex court and the government. The next hearing of the case is on January 17.

In September, the Centre had informed the apex court that search engines by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have introduced an “auto block” system to bar content on sex determination from being shared online. The companies had said anyone running a search for the 22 keywords they had identified, including “sex determination”, will not find any information online.

This step was taken after the Supreme Court had in July directed the Centre to immediately frame a memorandum on Google, Microsoft and Yahoo showing content on sex determination on its websites. “Google, Microsoft, Yahoo cannot continue doing the illegal activity in the name of being an intermediary,” the court had observed. It had directed the government to meet with representatives of the three companies.

Pre-natal sex determination was made illegal in Indian in 1994 to stop sex-selective abortions and check the skewed sex ratio.