A 14-year-girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly was raped on the pretext of marriage and abandoned after she conceived. The minor appealed to the judiciary to allow an abortion, but by the time her case was heard, her pregnancy had reached an advanced stage and hence her plea was denied.
Now, the girl will unwillingly give birth to a child that has already been shunned by the mother and her family.
A law that was made to check illegal abortions and female foeticide has instead led to a poor family being burdened by an extra mouth to feed, and a girl too young to be a mother.
According to the guidelines of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, the abortion could have been cleared when the teen approached the lower court in July; she was 26 weeks pregnant at the time. The MTP law allows abortions up to 28 weeks, senior gynaecologist Dr Bharti Saran told Hindustan Times.
A delay in hearing the case resulted in the judgment against the girl’s plea, the girl’s father has alleged. Given the time frame, why wasn’t this case fast tracked to ensure justice?
Perhaps her poverty was a stumbling block? Instances of money gaining legal advantage are more than a few. The more obvious examples are of celebrities: In 2015, actor Salman Khan was granted bail barely three hours after he was convicted in the 2002 hit-and-run case and Sanjay Dutt seemed to get parole whenever he wanted.
As this teen and her family, despite their poverty, were doing all they could to abort the pregnancy, the Supreme Court allowed a 24-year-old in Mumbai abort her foetus in July this year.
She was made to go from court to court, file multiple pleas, all so that she can save herself from the trauma of becoming a mother at 14 years. But nothing helped. By the time her case got to the high court, it was too late.
How does a case this time-sensitive not get the justice it deserves?
Advocate Adnan Shaikh said, “From the 13th to the 20th week, if it is a pregnancy resulting out of rape or incest, then the abortion must be carried out, if requested by the woman.”
Talking about this case, Shaikh said such cases are black and white. “There’s a law that says one thing has to be done and there’s a penalty if one does not go ahead and do what the law prescribes. All of this and more is available in the MTP Act,” he added.
Advocated Aamir Farooqui agrees about the backlog of cases pending in courts. “Due to a huge backlog of cases and inadequate number of judges, any petition filed in court comes in due course according to the computerised date. If the need for urgency is made out when interim relief is needed, the matter can be heard on merits,” he said.
The rape survivor is at a risk of several mental health problems now that her plea has been rejected. Dr Archana Sharma, clinical psychologist, said: “Teenage pregnancy is usually associated with high levels of postpartum depression as well as clinical depression. In this situation, both social and psychological aspects come into view as the girl will feel abandoned because of the stigma attached to teenage pregnancy,” she said.
Dr Arti Anand, consultant and clinical psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said, “This could lead to crying spells, depression, suicidal tendencies,” adding that the trauma of rape doubles the stress in the situation.
The delay in justice and lack of knowledge of procedures has led a 14-year-old to live a life she is clearly unprepared for. The ‘backlog’, however, takes the backseat when high-profile cases are involved. This highlights the bigger picture of how unbalanced our system is. Responsibility, action, priority, the system lacks it all.
Views expressed are personal.