Activists hail HC’s historic verdict, say it will aid Maharashtra women
Experts said while the battle is to make amendments in the MTP Act, the high court’s verdict acts as a silver liningmumbai Updated: Nov 07, 2017 00:06 IST
Activists and legal experts welcomed the Bombay high court’s verdict on Monday, wherein the court allowed a 28-year-old Jogeshwari resident to abort her malformed foetus despite crossing the 20-week pregnancy deadline for abortion. While the abnormality was detected in the 22nd week of pregnancy, it took another three weeks to complete paper work before the woman moved high court on November 3.
Experts said the verdict is likely to benefit women from Maharashtra, who until now had been moving Supreme Court (SC) to abort abnormal foetuses beyond the permissible limit. Since January, 17 women from Mumbai and neighbouring areas moved Apex Court to obtain permission to abort foetuses with congenital abnormalities.
Dr Nikhil Datar, the prime petitioner in the case to make amendments in the country’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971, so that the cut-off period for legal abortions is extended to 24 weeks of pregnancy, said after the 2008 verdict of Bombay HC, which denied Bhayandar couple Niketa and Haresh Mehta permission to abort 24-week foetus, they moved Supreme Court.
“While hearing one such case recently, the Supreme Court indicated that there is an institutionalised mechanism in the state which allows us to seek judicial relief closer to home. Moreover, the existing judgements by the Apex Court in these matters have set the precedent on which future cases can get favourable response from the high courts,” said Datar.
He added that the movement which he started nine years ago, has came a full circle.
“The HC has allowed the [Jogeshwari] women to terminate the pregnancy, which it did not nine years ago,” Datar said.
Experts said while the battle is to make amendments in the MTP Act, the high court’s verdict acts as a silver lining.
“In the past nine years, the Supreme Court has laid out a format that includes setting up medical committees, filing reports and then offering judgement on the basis of opinions given by expert. It’s a welcome move to witness that the lower courts are following the format and valuing the rights of these women to take decisions pertaining to their own bodies,” said Meenaz Kakallia, lawyer of the Jogeshwari petitioner.
Also, certain changes are in the pipeline in the state, which are likely to alleviate psychological and physical strain of a pregnant woman diagnosed with a malformed foetus after the permissible limit for abortion.
Dr Satish Pawar, director, Directorate of Health Services, said state public health department officials, as per Centre’s direction, are in the process of forming eight committees in the state that will examine women seeking termination of pregnancy beyond the prescribed limit and submit the report to the court.
“The committees will guide the women on both legal and health courses and also act as experts for the courts. Currently, there are doctors and legal experts who are helping women in these matters. But it’s always better to have a decentralised team of experts who can offer their suggestions,” said Pawar.
The committees are going to be set up at Thane, Aurangabad, Nashik, Nagpur, Akola, Pune, Kolapur and Latur and will comprise five members each.