Pregnant women need bail and not jail, the Himachal Pradesh High Court has observed while granting anticipatory bail to a seven-month pregnant woman facing possible arrest under a drugs-related charge.
In the order delivered Saturday, Justice Anoop Chitkara batted for pre-arrest bail and suspended sentences for pregnant women to save them from the trauma of giving birth in prison.
"Pregnant women need bail, not jail! Courts must restore the due and sacrosanct freedom of women in motherhood pro tanto," the court said.
Hearing the case through video conference, the judge questioned, "What difference will it make to the State and society by not postponing incarceration? What is so urgent to execute the sentence? Heavens will not fall if incarceration is postponed."
"Even when the offences are highly grave and accusations very severe, they still deserve temporary bail or suspension of sentence, extending to a year after delivery," the HC said.
"Further, those who stand convicted and their appeals closed also deserve similar relief, in whatever camouflage it may come," it added.
In its 16-page judgement, the single-judge bench observed that being born in a prison could potentially create "an everlasting impact" on the mind on the child, whenever questioned about the birth.
He said nutritious food in prison may provide good physical health but cannot substitute good mental health. Restraints and confined spaces might cause mental stress to a pregnant woman.
"Giving birth in jail might cause her tremendous trauma," he added.
"There should be no restraints throughout pregnancy, no restraints during labour and delivery, and no restraints at least for a year after giving birth. Every expecting female deserves dignity during motherhood," the court said.
Petitioner Monika apprehended her arrest over allegations that she conspired with her husband, from whose house police had recovered 259 grams of diacetylmorphine (heroin) and 713 grams of tablets containing tramadol.
She had earlier filed a bail petition before Kangra Special Judge but her application was dismissed on January 19.
Earlier, the HC granted her interim bail on February 23.
During the hearing, her counsel Rajiv Sharma submitted that she is in the seventh month of her pregnancy and faces some medical complications.
The petitioner was married to the accused around a decade ago and has no criminal background, the court said. However, her husband has a chequered criminal history, it added.
Granting her bail, the court observed, "The difference between a bail order and the final judgment is similar to that of a sketch and a painting. However, some sketches would be detailed, and some paintings with a few strokes."