The Delhi High Court passed guidelines to be followed by the investigating authorities in cases related to the pregnancy of sexually assaulted victims, exceeding 24 weeks [Minor R Thr Mother H v State of NCT of Delhi and anr]
The case was observed by Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma. She observed that while passing the orders in the process of medical termination of such victims, crucial time is lost. These examinations are done by a board that endangers the victim’s life.
The Court said, “At the time of medical examination of a victim of sexual assault, it will be mandatory to conduct a Urine Pregnancy Test.”
Justice Sharma considered consent and the desire of the victim to be the prime aim to be fulfilled in such cases. She ordered that if the victim is found pregnant due to sexual assault, and in case the victim is a major who gives her consent and expresses her desire for conducting MTP, (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) then the concerned investigating authority must ensure that she is produced before the medical board immediately, on the same day.
The Judge said, “In case a minor victim of sexual assault is carrying a pregnancy, upon the consent of her legal guardian and desire of such legal guardian for termination of pregnancy, the victim will be produced before the Board.”
She further added, “in case a minor victim is examined by such Board, the appropriate report will be placed before the 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.”
All about Delhi High court guidelines
The bench also noted that as per Sections 3(2C) and 3(2D) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the State government or union territory must ensure that the medical boards are constituted in the hospitals.
This ordered the government to ensure the compulsion of Sections 3(2C) and 3(2D) and see to it that all government hospitals are constituted with the Board and provide proper MTP Centers.
The Ministry of Health Affairs, the government of NCT of Delhi, and the Union ministry for Health Affairs were directed to act in accordance with this initiative within two months.
These guidelines were issued by the court as they allowed a 14-year-old to undergo MTP. The minor was 25 weeks pregnant. It was informed to the court that the victim’s family worked at a construction site, and the young girl was sexually assaulted in the absence of her mother.
It was observed that though the statute does not provide or permit the termination of pregnancies over the gestation period of 24 weeks (except for the cases of detection of substantial fetal abnormalities), the constitutional courts can exceed and use their extraordinary powers to permit the termination of such pregnancies.
The Judge placed emphasis on the point that a female has the invariable right to make reproductive choices. In the case of a sexual assault, denying a woman’s right to ask for MTP would also amount to denying her basic human right to live with dignity and respect.
The Court said, “A woman has a right in relation to her body which includes saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to being a mother. Termination of pregnancy in cases, like the present one, cannot be reduced merely to be defined as the right of a woman sexually assaulted, but also to be recognized as a human right, as it affects the dignified existence of a victim if the same is the not permitted.”
Considering the economic condition of the victim and her family, the court directed the local Station House Officer (SHO) to ensure that the girl is enrolled in a school. The bench also asked the Secretary (DSLSA- Delhi State Legal Services Authority) to counsel the family regarding their rights.
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