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State lets inmate terminate pregnancy after HC order

mumbai Updated: Sep 09, 2016 09:51 IST
Ayesh Arvind

The state government on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that, in compliance with a previous order, it had allowed an under trial woman prisoner, who was over 15 weeks pregnant, to terminate her ‘unwanted’ pregnancy.

This happened while the HC bench of Justices VK Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar was hearing a suo moto PIL on health facilities for women inmates in state. The court, though, reserved its verdict on the PIL, it also passed a slew of “preliminary guidelines” for the prison authorities.

Earlier this month, the amicus curiae appointed by the court to assist it on the PIL had brought to light the case of this under trial. The woman was arrested on June 25 this year and at the time she was around seven weeks pregnant. When the amicus visited the Thane prison earlier this month, the woman told her that she wished to terminate her pregnancy.

She said though she had informed the jail authorities, “No steps were being taken in this regard.”

The inmate was then brought before the court to hear her case. She already had a five-year-old child from her husband, who died four years ago. After that, she had got involved into a physical relationship with another man and was now bearing his child. This man, however, had abandoned her and she thus, wanted to terminate the pregnancy.

HC had at the time pulled up the state for delaying the medical termination and had observed that forcing a woman to carry on with an unwanted pregnancy is causing grave injury to her mental health.

On Thursday, the state informed the court that the woman had been admitted to Thane Civil hospital on September 3 and had undergone a medical termination of the pregnancy on September 4. HC is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on September 19 this year.

HC’s preliminary guidelines

- Conduct a complete medical test at the time of admitting any person, an under trial or a convict, into the prison, and conduct a second medical test after 25 days from when they were lodged in prison.

- Make it easier for women inmates to communicate their grievances and give their consent to receiving medical assistance in cases like the 15-week pregnant inmate.

- Maintain a register with details of all inmates including their medical history and results of the medical test they undergo in prison to help visiting authorities detect if an inmate needs medical help.

- Install display boards to exhibit the provisions of the Maharashtra prison manual.