The Supreme Court has sought the West Bengal government’s response to a petition filed by a Kolkata-based pregnant woman, who had challenged the validity of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in the top judiciary, The Times of India reported on Thursday.

Sarmishtha Chakraborty had recently filed a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of Section 3 of the MTP Act, 1971, which says pregnancy cannot be terminated after 20 weeks. On Wednesday, the bench had sought the Centre’s response to the petition.

The woman has sought permission to terminate her 23-week-old foetus, which has a congenital defect. The illness was detected on May 25 when the foetus was more than 20 weeks old and was confirmed a week later, she said.

A vacation bench of justices Dhananjay Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul have asked the West Bengal government to respond by Friday. They will hear her plea and grounds for seeking permission to terminate her pregnancy.

Sneha Mukherjee, Chakraborty’s counsel, attached a certificate from cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty seeking permission for the abortion. Mukherjee argued that 2% to 3% of the 2.6 crore births in India every year had severe congenital or chromosomal abnormality.

The court asked the state government to suggest a panel of doctors from government hospitals in Kolkata who could examine the health of the woman and her fetus at short notice. It also asked for a report on whether ending her pregnancy would be advisable.

MTP Act amendment

A Bill introduced in Parliament in 2014 that proposes extending the legally permissible period to terminate a pregnancy to 24 weeks is still pending. Many women have been forced to move the Supreme Court for permission to end their pregnancies that are beyond the legal limit of 20 weeks, after the delay in the MTP Act amendment.

The Act will provide women a wider window to abort terminally ill foetuses. The Supreme Court has dealt with several requests similar to that of the petitioner in the past five years. The apex court has ruled in favour of most women with abnormalities in their over 20-week pregnancies.