Delhi HC permits minor rape victim to terminate a pregnancy at 24 weeks

-Kosha Doshi

Background-




            On the 4th of February, 2020 a 16-year-old girl who is a rape victim sought the court a petition granting her permission to terminate her 24-year-old pregnancy. The petition moved to the Child Welfare Committee and was up on the ultrasound discovery of pregnancy of 23 weeks asked the Delhi State Legal Services Authority for providing legal aid for representation in the Delhi High Court case.

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Current Issue-

            The Delhi High Court ordered the constitution of a medical board at RML Hospital in order to examine the minor rape victim in relation to termination of a 24-year-old pregnancy. This order was passed by a single bench judge; Justice Vibhu Bakhru. The Justice ordered the medical superintendent of RML (Ram Manohar Lohia) Hospital for the making of a medical board with the purpose of examining and submitting a report regarding the termination of the pregnancy as soon as possible.

            This order was passed due to the petition filed by the 16-year-old victim who approached the court in order for receiving permission to terminate the pregnancy. The petition made note of the fact that she had been medically examined on 26th of January, 2020 at BSA Hospital whereby the doctors provided her the information that she was 24 weeks pregnant. The Medical Board report at RML (Ram Manohar Lohia) Hospital suggested that it was of significant risk to the expecting mother due to her young age.

Question of Law-

            After receiving the medical report by BSA Hospital, aFIR was lodged under Section 376 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. In addition, Section 4 of the POSCO Act was also applied. The petitioner aggrieved to the facts under Section 3 of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 which did not permit termination of pregnancy wherein the gestation period was over 20 weeks.

            During the proceedings, Advocate Kamna Vohra representing the victim asked the court to direct the Medical Superintendent of All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) for the constituting of Medical Board. But the court only asked the setting up of the medical board at RML (Ram Manohar Lohia) Hospital. The court further ordered a psychiatrist to be a member and part of this Medical Board. Along with this, the court ordered the Medical Superintendent to send a representative to appear in a court of the next court hearing.

            Justice Vibhu Bakhru prior to this discussed the matter with the minor girl and her family in-chamber before passing the verdict in open court. The court directed that the DNA evidence should be recovered from the medical termination of pregnancy which would be carried out within the next 24 hours. The preserved DNA would then serve as evidence of rape.

            The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has increased the limit of the age of fetus to 4 weeks to include vulnerable women such as rape victims, disabled women, victims of incest and so on. Therefore, for the termination of pregnancy from 20-24 weeks approval of 2 doctors must be sought before the procedure. The court thereby permitted the minor rape victim to terminate a 24-year-old pregnancy.

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Conclusion-

            The court took into consideration the circumstances of the minor rape victim. Thereby, it came an order to constitute a medical board that would submit a report for the same. Having been granted permission to terminate the 24-week-old pregnancy the court stated that it should take place in the next 24 hours to prevent any further delay. In addition, the court gave an insight into the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020.