Gujarat HC holds ‘best interest’ of Victim paramount, allows to terminate 22 weeks pregnancy [Read Order]

Gujarat HC holds ‘best interest’ of Victim paramount, allows to terminate 22 weeks pregnancy [Read Order]

Holding the “best interests” of victim to be paramount, the Gujarat High Court in a recent case of x v. State of Gujarat has ordered termination of 22 weeks pregnancy of a rape victim. The Petitioner was a minor 14-year old girl, who had approached the Sessions Court for termination of her pregnancy when she was 18-weeks pregnant on 24.5.2016. However the Sessions Judge rejected her request relying on the provisions of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, as well the medical examination of Assistant Professor of Government Medical College, Rajkot.

Aggrieved by the order of Sessions Court, the victim approached Gujarat High Court in appeal requesting termination of pregnancy. Justice Sonia Gokani, relied primarily on the judgment of Suchita Srivastava & Anr. vs. Chandigarh Administration, where the Apex Court had laid down the theory of ‘best interest test’ to hold that the Court is required to ascertain the course of action which would serve the best interests of the person in question.

The Court noted that the victim girl was very young to continue with her pregnancy, as she had extremely low blood pressure and hemoglobin level of 6.5 as per the latest medical report. She had severe anemia, and the pregnancy of 22 weeks and 3 days.

The “best interest principle” set out in case of Suchita Srivastava & Anr. vs. Chandigarh Administration, says : “The Court must undertake a careful inquiry of the medical opinion on the feasibility of the pregnancy as well as social circumstances faced by the victim. The Court's decision should be guided by the interest of the victim alone and not those of stakeholders such as guardians or society in general. Para 19 of the decision reads thus : the 'Best interests' test requires the Court to ascertain the course of action which would serve the best interests of the person in question. In the present setting this means that the Court must undertake a careful inquiry of the medical opinion on the feasibility of the pregnancy as well as social circumstances faced by the victim. It is important to note that the Court's decision should be guided by the interests of the victim alone and not those of other stakeholders such as guardians or society in general. It is evident that the woman in question will need care and assistance which will in turn entail some costs. However, that cannot be a ground for denying the excise of reproductive rights.”

The Court noted the fact that : “continuance of pregnancy since involves grave injury to her mental health as her pregnancy being the result of rape, the anguish caused also is to be constituted as a grave injury to the mental health of the victim, and therefore also, termination of pregnancy is permitted. Her frail physical and mental health is on account of trauma of rape she underwent and it appears almost an impossibility for her to look after herself. She also attempted suicide when humiliated by the accused. All these factual circumstances that emerge on record, particularly very young age of the petitioner leads this Court to conclude in favour of grant of her request.”

The Court also weighed the fact, that chances of survival of the child born at that time was extremely premature. The Court further directed proper medical care, attention and care of the victim after such termination of pregnancy procedure, and that doctors shall take necessary tissue from the fetus for DNA identification.

Read the order here.