The Rajasthan High Court has directed the state government to frame guidelines to ensure that women who become pregnant due to rape are provided timely legal and medical assistance so they can exercise their reproductive choice in terms of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
A division bench of justices Sandeep Mehta and PS Bhati gave the direction while hearing a special writ petition filed by the state government challenging a decision by a single bench, which had rejected the plea of a minor rape survivor of Churu seeking termination of her pregnancy stating "the foetus in womb had a right to life as guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution".
"We challenged this order in which the single bench had denied permission to terminate a 26-week-old fetus of a 17-year-old rape survivor," Additional Advocate General Pankaj Sharma said.
The court said that a pregnant woman, even in a normal situation, has the right to demand termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks as per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
Taking a serious note of the delay in deciding the case at initial stage leading to the crossing of the 20-week threshold for termination, the court said, "The survivor sought termination of her pregnancy well in time but the matter was unnecessarily delayed because of red-tapism and systemic indifference."
"If an application for termination of pregnancy is submitted by the guardian of the survivor to the appropriate authority within the stipulated period of 20 weeks as provided by the MTP Act, it shall be processed forthwith and suitable decision shall be taken thereupon within three days from the date of submission thereof," the court said.
While directing the government and an NGO to provide all remedial measures to the child born to the survivor in this case, the court said that in case, where the threshold of 20 weeks gestation has been crossed, the full time secretary of the District Legal Services Authority will assist the survivor and her guardians if they so desire for approaching the high court to file a writ petition seeking direction for termination of pregnancy.