A local court in Kashmir has sentenced a doctor running a private clinic, along with its staff, to varying degrees of rigorous jail imprisonment for the death of a young woman during an illegal termination of her pregnancy in 2003.
Police investigations revealed that the 25-year-old unmarried victim, who was in an advanced stage (sixth month) of pregnancy, was dumped outside a government hospital following an illegal abortion attempt by a doctor, Ghulam Nabi Bhat, at his clinic in Srinagar.
Police said post mortem attributed the woman's death to incomplete abortion, which was done secretly to "conceal an illicit relationship".
"The incident of abortion was an illustration of how far the civilised social order has drifted away from the very foundation on which it once came to be called as civilised," quoted the judgment of principal sessions judge Mohammad Shafi Khan.
Five people were held guilty in the case, including Dr Bhat, his brother and assistant in the clinic Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, the victim's alleged lover Mohammad Altaf Hajam, his accomplice Reyaz Ahmad Dar and midwife Safia.
The doctor, the boyfriend of the victim and his accomplice have been awarded a sentence of 10 years' rigorous imprisonment along with fine up to Rs 50,000.
Apparently in a very emotional state, the judge lamented lack of proper deterrent as cause of such incidents. "Before the laws are made more stringent and inescapable, scruples of every individual of society have to be awoken for which collective effort is required from judiciary, executive and the masses. The time was ripe to identify and shovel out the rotten contents lest it degrade the entire basket," Khan said in the judgment.
Police said the victim was brought to Jhelum Diagnostic Centre by Budgam resident Altaf Hajam after he had "developed intimate relations with the woman, and on coming to know about the pregnancy wanted her to abort the foetus".
The court observed that she was subjected to "induced abortion following which she died and was thrown outside SMHS Hospital using a car of Reyaz Ahmad Dar".
Police had recovered the body of the woman from near casualty section of SMHS Hospital on February 21, 2003. A piece of paper with the name of a clinic -Jhelum Diagnostic Centre - was recovered from the body, leading police to raid the clinic and seize its records.
While lambasting the doctor for his misdeeds and involvement in similar other cases, the judge urged people for introspection. "I do not know what pleas the eliminated life would put forth before God, but certainly it has posed certain questions to us and we must find answers," the court observed.