The Delhi High Court has allowed a minor rape survivor to undergo medical termination of pregnancy after 26 weeks, saying her misery and suffering would stand compounded if she was forced to bear the mantle of motherhood at a tender age.
Justice Yashwant Varma observed that forcing the petitioner to go through the pregnancy would permanently scar her psyche and cause grave and irreparable injury to her mental health.
The court cannot visualise a more egregious invasion of her right to life and the mental and physical trauma that she would have to undergo if forced to take on the onerous duties of motherhood is unimaginable, the judge said.
The court allowed the petitioner's plea seeking medical termination of pregnancy and directed the concerned hospital to preserve the terminal foetus for the purposes of DNA testing which would be required in the criminal case related to the incident.
The medical board, in its report dated July 16, said that the age of the petitioner was about 13 years and the period of gestation was 25 weeks and 6 days and opined that in case of termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks, the law sanctions termination only in case of substantial foetal abnormalities.
The court said that the mental anguish and injury to mental health that may be faced by a pregnant woman in case of rape is statutorily ordained to be presumed when she is seeking termination and although the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act deals with pregnancies that may extend up to 24 weeks, it can, in exceptional situations, invoke its "extraordinary powers conferred by the Constitution" to sanction termination of pregnancy.
"The assault on her person and the defilement of her body would have undoubtedly left scars which would take years to heal. Her misery and suffering would stand compounded even more if she were forced to bear the mantle of motherhood at such a tender age. The court shudders to even imagine the state of despondency that would descend over her life," said the court on July 19.
"The mental and physical trauma that she would have to undergo if she were forced to carry the foetus and take on the onerous duties of motherhood is unimaginable. This court is of the firm opinion that if the petitioner was forced to go through with the pregnancy despite the same having been caused on account of the incident of sexual assault, it would permanently scar her psyche and cause grave and irreparable injury to her mental health," it added.
The court clarified that if during the procedure for termination, the medical board and the attending doctors find that there arises a risk to the life of the petitioner, they would have the discretion to cancel the procedure for termination of pregnancy.
"The writ petition is accordingly allowed... The court further directs the respondent hospital to preserve the terminal foetus for the purposes of DNA testing which would be required with reference to the criminal case which stands registered. The preservation of the terminal foetus and the DNA that may be drawn therefrom shall abide by orders that may be passed by the competent criminal court," it ordered.