On May 11 2021, the Bombay High Court permitted a 16-year-old rape survivor to undergo medical termination of pregnancy.
The petition was placed before the court by the minor petitioner through her father, seeking permission to terminate her pregnancy. The petitioner was raped by a man residing nearby and became pregnant as a consequence of rape. She stopped having her periods for almost twelve weeks and her mother suspected changes occurring in her abdomen area, then the petitioner was taken to the hospital for a medical examination. In the medical report, it was stated that her pregnancy has exceeded 20 weeks under the MTP Act. The Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the victim was experiencing mental trauma on being pregnant because of sexual assault. Other than this, there was an absolute danger to her life on account of pregnancy at this youthful age.
A Medical Board Committee constituted by the court to permitting medical termination of Petitioner’s pregnancy. The committee reported on May 10 after psychiatric evaluation, clinical and ultrasonography examinations that the health of the pregnant minor was fine and there was no deformity in her fetus but neither of her parents nor her wished to continue the pregnancy. It was stated that the minor is experiencing severe mental suffering due to pregnancy.
In such case, the continuation of pregnancy might lead to complications such as hypertension, anaemia and other psychological disorders. Since the pregnancy has advanced to 23 weeks, it would be risky to operate, still minor and her parents have consented for termination and the prescribed limit for termination of pregnancy is 20 weeks then termination could be done by the permission granted by the High Court. However, it was also requested by the committee that if the child born alive, High Court should direct the parents of the victim to bear the responsibility of the child.
The court cited the observation made by a Division Bench of Bombay High Court and stated that if a woman was forced to continue with the pregnancy just because the time of pregnancy had exceeded the limit of 20 weeks would be an infringement of a right to privacy which includes exercising reproductive choices, bodily integrity and dignity. The court also referred to Explanation 1 to section 3 of the MTP Act and stated if the pregnancy was caused by the rape of a woman, then it shall be presumed that the anguish caused by the pregnancy would harm and constitutes serious injuries to the mental health of that woman.
Considering the Medical Board's report, judgement cited and provisions involved, A bench of Justice KK Tated and Justice Abhay Ahuja allowed termination of pregnancy, the bench also directed to collect the foetus tissues for DNA identification and to facilitate the ongoing investigation. The court also stated in case a child born alive and the parents of the minor were not ready to take care then the state would bear the full responsibility of that child.