SC allows Gujarat rape victim to terminate pregnancy
The bench criticised the High Court which rejected the victim’s plea to terminate the pregnancy and said that in such cases
NEW DELHI: Observing that pregnancy outside marriage is injurious and a cause of stress, the Supreme Court on Monday allowed a rape victim from Gujarat to terminate her 27-week pregnancy. A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan took into note the victim’s medical report and said she is fit to terminate the pregnancy.
“In Indian society, within the institution of marriage, pregnancy is a source of joy for couples and society. In contrast, pregnancy outside marriage is injurious, particularly in cases of sexual assault or abuse and is a cause of stress and trauma affecting the physical and mental health of pregnant women. Sexual assault of a woman is itself distressing and sexual abuse resulting in pregnancy compounds the injury. This is because such a pregnancy is not voluntary or mindful,” the bench said.
The apex court in its order stated, “In view of the above discussion and the medical report, we permit the appellant to terminate her pregnancy. We direct her to be present in hospital tomorrow so that the procedure for termination of pregnancy can be carried out.” The top court also said if the foetus is found to be alive, the hospital shall give all necessary assistance, including incubation to ensure the foetus survives. "If it survives, the State shall take steps to ensure the child is adopted in accordance with the law," the apex court said.
The victim’s counsel also requested the apex court for the preservation of tissues of the foetus for use as DNA evidence in the rape case trial. The top court directed the doctors to explore the feasibility of preserving tissues of the foetus, if it is possible, so that it may be handed over to the investigating agency for DNA examination in the rape case filed by the woman in the matter.
The apex court once again criticised the Gujarat High Court for the manner in which it passed an order in the rape victim’s plea seeking termination of her pregnancy. Today, as the matter came up for hearing, the apex court was informed that after the Supreme Court heard the matter and passed an order in a special sitting on Saturday, the High Court passed another order seemingly attempting to clarify its earlier order.
Justice Nagarathna said, “We do not appreciate the High Court's counterblast to the Supreme Court's orders. What is happening in the High Court of Gujarat? Do judges reply like this to a superior court's order? We do not appreciate this. These kinds of attempts are being made by High Court judges to circumvent something we have said, like this. There is no need for any judge of the High Court to justify its order,” Judges do not have to justify their orders by passing a subsequent order, Justice Bhuyan said. Solicitor General Tushar requested the bench to refrain from making comments about the High Court judge. “No judge can counterblast the Supreme Court's order,” Justice Nagarathna said.
The bench in its order stated, “We restrain ourselves from saying anything on the High Court order dated August 19 (Saturday).” On Saturday, the top court heard plea of a rape victim to terminate her pregnancy and ordered a fresh medical examination. That day also, the bench criticised the High Court which rejected the victim’s plea to terminate the pregnancy and said that in such cases, “there should be a sense of urgency” and not a “lackadaisical attitude treating it as a normal matter”. It had noted that a lot of time had been lost with the High Court initially adjourning the case.