The Delhi High Court allowed a minor to terminate her 25-week pregnancy and issued guidelines to the police on pregnancies exceeding 24 weeks, reported Live Law on Thursday.
Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, abortion is permitted till 20 weeks of pregnancy. women and minors who have been sexually assaulted, raped or faced incest can abort the foetus at 24 weeks.
Last year, the Supreme Court had allowed a 25-year-old unmarried woman to terminate her pregnancy at 24 weeks after her partner refused to marry her.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma passed the judgement while permitting a 14-year-old minor to undergo an abortion after she was sexually assaulted. The girl was sexually assaulted and raped in September and did not initially inform her mother about it, reported The Hindu.
A first information report was registered under the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The investigating officer in the case approached the Child Welfare Committee, following which the girl and her mother were produced before a medical board, reported The Hindu.
On January 20, the girl and her family had said that they wanted to terminate the pregnancy. However, since the pregnancy was beyond the gestational age limit permissible for medical termination under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, she was directed to approach the High Court.
The High Court on Wednesday also issued guidelines to investigating officers dealing with rape cases. It directed that at the time of the medical examination of a complainant, it will be mandatory to conduct a urine pregnancy test.
The court also said that when an adult woman who became pregnant due to sexual assault expresses her desire for medical termination of pregnancy, the police will ensure that she is produced before a medical board in one of the four government hospitals in the capital on the same day.
In Delhi, medical boards are constituted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital.
The High Court noted that such medical boards have not been constituted in every district of the capital and directed the Delhi government to ensure that they are set up in all government hospitals in compliance with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
“In case a minor victim is examined by such Board, appropriate report will be placed before concerned authorities, so that if an order is being sought regarding termination of pregnancy from the Courts, the Court concerned does not lose any more time and is in a position to pass an order on the same expeditiously,” the judgement said.
Justice Sharma noted that an unwanted pregnancy would surely have an impact on the girl’s mental health considering the social, financial, and other factors that are immediately associated with the pregnancy. She ordered the Delhi Police to ensure that after the abortion and the period of rest advised by doctors is complete, the minor is admitted to a nearby government school.
“Poverty has its own multi-dimensions, and poverty has its own jurisprudence too,” Sharma noted in her judgement. “A judge cannot separate herself from the social contexts in which a crime is committed and a victim suffers.”