The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a woman’s right to give birth or undergo an abortion, and dismissed a man’s petition seeking damages from his wife because she terminated her pregnancy without his consent, The Times of India reported.
In 2011, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed the man’s original civil suit against his wife, her parents, brother and two doctors. He had demanded Rs 30 lakh towards damages due to mental pain, agony and harassment because, he said, terminating a pregnancy without any medical need or the husband’s consent “was illegal” under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
The High Court had intervened after the two doctors filed an appeal. On Friday, refusing to interfere in the High Court’s decision, a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said, “Keeping in view the strained relations between the husband and wife, the wife’s decision to terminate the unwanted foetus was right.” It added that the husband’s consent was not required.
“She is a mother and an adult who says she did not want the pregnancy. How can she or others be made liable for it,” the Supreme Court bench of justices asked. “Even a mentally challenged woman has a right to terminate her pregnancy. How can parents and doctors be made liable?”
The couple were married in 1994, and had a son in 1995. They were separated between 1999 and 2002. After they began living together in November 2002, the woman discovered she was pregnant in January 2003. Since their relationship was sour, she terminated the pregnancy in Chandigarh despite his refusal to sign the hospital papers.
In 2011, while dismissing the civil suit, the High Court had said, “If the wife has consented to matrimonial sex...it does not mean that she has consented to conceive a child.”
It had added: “The woman is not a machine in which raw material is put and a finished product comes out. She should be mentally prepared to give birth to a child.” Unwanted pregnancy would affect the woman’s mental health, the High Court had ruled.