Delhi high court allows 14-year-old rape survivor to terminate pregnancy
Justice Swarn Kanta Sharma also ordered the police to ensure that the girl gets admission to a government school near her place of residence
NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday allowed a 14-year-old rape survivor to terminate her 25-week pregnancy, observing that to force the girl to give birth to the child of a man who sexually assaulted her will “result in unexplainable miseries”.
“…it is not in dispute that a female invariably has a right to make reproductive choices and decisions which are concerned with her bodily integrity and autonomy,” justice Swarn Kanta Sharma said on a plea by the girl, who told the judge that she wanted to go to school and study.
In her 22-page verdict, justice Sharma ordered the authorities to ensure that she gets admission to a state-run school near her place of residence and noted that the girl, the daughter of a construction worker, lost crucial time in approaching the court through the high court’s legal services committee due to financial constraints.
In future, justice Sharma said the authorities concerned should conduct a urine pregnancy test along with the rape survivor’s medical examination in cases where the pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks.
The court added that if the survivor is found to be pregnant due to sexual assault, and in case the victim is a major and gives her consent and expresses her desire for conducting medical termination of pregnancy, the investigating officer concerned will ensure that on the same day, the victim will be produced before a medical board envisaged under Section 3 of MTP Act, which has been constituted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital, and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in the city.
“In case a minor victim is examined by such board, an appropriate report will be placed before concerned authorities so that if an order is being sought regarding termination of pregnancy from the courts, the court concerned does not lose any more time and is in a position to pass an order on the same expeditiously,” the judgment read.
The young girl, on whose petition the ruling was delivered, was sexually assaulted when her parents left home for work. The girl did not tell her parents about the assault for four months but when the mother saw changes in her daughter’s body, she got her tested and later lodged an FIR against the accused.
The court set up a medical board on January 24 when the case was first listed before the judge, which opined that the girl was physically and mentally fit to undergo termination of pregnancy.
The judge said that termination of pregnancy, in cases like the present one, cannot be reduced merely to be defined as the right of a woman sexually assaulted, but also to be recognized as a human right, as it affects dignified existence of a victim if the same is not permitted.
“It is not the privacy of the rape victim which is invaded by sexual assault, but her body is wounded and her soul is scared. It would not be appropriate to expect the minor victim who is a rape victim to take the burden of giving birth and raising a child, especially in a situation where she herself is passing through the age of adolescence. Doing so will amount to asking a child to give birth and raise another child. Given the social, financial, and other factors that are immediately associated with the pregnancy, an unwanted pregnancy would surely have an impact on the victim’s mental health,” the court said.