Delhi high court allows 16-year-old to terminate 24-week pregnancy

Mar 14, 2023 12:32 AM IST

Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma said allowing the minor to give birth and raise the child, knowing that she herself is an adolescent and mentally and physically unprepared, would be inappropriate and improper

The Delhi high court has allowed a 16-year-old girl, an alleged victim of sexual assault, to terminate her nearly 24-week pregnancy after her father, who had earlier consented to the procedure, did not sign the consent form.

Delhi high court. (Representative image)
Delhi high court. (Representative image)

Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma said allowing the minor to give birth and raise the child, knowing that she herself is an adolescent and mentally and physically unprepared, would be inappropriate and improper.

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“This would only be leading her to trauma for the entire life and miseries in all manners, be it emotional, physical and mental, given the social, financial and other factors that are associated with raising a child,” the high court said.

Noting that only a couple of days were left for the pregnancy to complete 24 weeks --the legal limit to abort a pregnancy--the court directed that the pregnancy be terminated.

It added that the superintendent of Nirmal Chhaya Complex, where the girl has been staying since October last year, can sign the consent form, adding that the superintendent of the facility was appointed as the girl’s guardian by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

The court’s order came while hearing a plea by the minor, through her father, for handing over her custody to him. While the matter is pending, the court was informed that the girl was pregnant which led to the formation of the medical board.

Thereafter, the minor and her father told the high court that they were ready for medical termination of pregnancy and the father also gave his unconditional consent for the procedure in the best interests of the child. However, the father did not complete the formalities of signing the consent form.

In its order, the court said that being a constitutional court, it was duty bound to see the best interest of the girl.

“This court considers that in view of the consent given by the victim, the same cannot be frustrated only on the account of the irresponsible act of her father who after giving the consent is not coming forward to fulfil the formalities. The reasons for this act of the father can later be seen and inquired into by the investigation officer during the investigation of the case,” it said.

For conducting the medical procedure, the high court asked the Medical Superintendent of Lady Hardinge Medical College and the medical board to ensure that the termination of pregnancy is undertaken by competent doctors in accordance with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and other rules, regulations and guidelines prescribed.

It said the doctors shall also preserve the tissue of the fetus as it may be necessary for DNA identification and all other purposes in reference to the criminal case which has been registered in respect of sexual assault.

“The state shall also bear all expenses necessary for the termination of pregnancy of the petitioner, her medicines, food etc. The state shall also bear all expenses for further care during recovery,” it said.

It also directed the standing counsel of Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee to place a proper plan for rehabilitation of the minor in consultation with the Delhi High Court Legal Services Authority and the Child Welfare Committee.

“The Delhi High Court Legal Service Committee shall be the nodal agency to coordinate with all the other agencies and present a plan before this court for the rehabilitation and well being of the child,” the court said.

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