The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed a medical board of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to examine a 35-year-old HIV-positive destitute woman and rape survivor from Patna, for possible abortion.
She had moved the Supreme Court for terminating her 26-week pregnancy because the foetus is at risk of contracting the disease.
Taking note of the fact that the woman could not abort the child in the 17th week, which was well within the 20-week time-limit the law prescribes, because the authorities delayed in responding to her for termination, a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra on Wednesday ordered immediate medical test for her.
It directed the AIIMS to constitute a board to examine the woman before Saturday. The survivor, living in a shelter home in Patna - would be flown in on Thursday to Delhi for the test. Her travel and other expenses in Delhi would be borne by the Centre after two senior law officers – P Narasimha and Tushar Mehta – assured her of support.
“As we are inclined to think that a woman, who has already become a destitute being sexually assaulted and suffering from a serious medical ailment, not to go through further sufferings. The quintessential purpose of life, be it a man or a woman, is the dignity of life and all efforts are to be made to sustain it,” the bench said, fixing May 8 to hear the matter again.
The court also allowed member of NGO Koshish-TISS to accompany the woman to Delhi. This was after her lawyer Vrinda Grover informed the bench that the victim was under the organisation’s care at Shanti Kutir shelter home.
Grover told HT that the case at hand is a glaring example of how the authorities can mess up a case of medical emergency. Divorced and left to fend for herself on the streets of Patna, the woman approached the top court after the Patna high court did not permit her to terminate her pregnancy.
The woman was not even aware of her pregnancy and the disease until the government authorities picked her up from the streets and admitted her to the shelter home on January 27.
“As per the procedure she underwent a medical test and learnt that she was 17 weeks pregnant. She told the doctors to abort the foetus. However, the hospital insisted on calling her father who too gave his consent,” Grover said.
Since the hospital did not respond, the woman moved the HC. At that time her pregnancy was between 20 and 21 weeks. The court set-up a medical board that held the woman was suffering from minor mental retardation. Grover said the board made no categorical statement on whether the termination could happen and, yet, the HC presumed that termination would be hazardous to the petitioner’s life.
“The HC ordered the woman’s father and asked her to pay Rs 1000 every month to her. It even summoned her erstwhile husband who admitted to have left her 12 years ago and is now remarried. He too was asked to give the woman a monthly maintenance of Rs 1,500,” Grover said, questioning the basis of the HC judgement.