The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday invoked Manusmriti to emphasise how girls were married by the age of 14 to 16 and would have given birth to at least one child by the age of 17, reported Bar and Bench.
Manusmriti is a Hindu scripture authored by an ascetic named Manu. The text has been widely criticised for its gender and caste-based codes.
A bench of single-judge Justice Samir Dave made the observation while hearing a plea by the father of a minor who was raped. The girl’s father is seeking to medically terminate her seven-month pregnancy.
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 face incest can abort the foetus at 24 weeks.
Advocate Sikander Saiyed, appearing for the petitioner, told the court that the girl was 16 years and 11 months old and that her pregnancy would have an adverse impact on her mental health.
Justice Dave, however, said that there was anxiety because “we are living in the 21st century”, according to PTI.
“Go and ask your mother or great-grandmother,” he said. “They will tell you that in the past, 14 to 16 years was the normal age for girls to get married. By the time they [the girls] attain 17 years, they would deliver at least one child.”
Dave also said that the point he was trying to make is that “girls get matured before boys do”, according to Bar and Bench.
“Four to five months here or there wouldn’t make much difference,” he told the lawyer. “It is there in Manusmriti. I know you will not read that but still read it for this once.”
The bench said that circumstances in the present case indicate that both the mother and child are healthy.
“The court can consider [allowing abortion] if any serious ailments are found in the foetus or the girl,” the judge said, according to PTI. “But if both are normal, it will be very difficult for the court to pass such an order.”
He then ordered the medical superintendent of Rajkot Civil Hospital to form a panel of doctors to find out if the medical termination of pregnancy was advisable.