23 Jan 2023 12:11 PM GMT
The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the Delhi Government to issue a circular directing that the identity of a minor girl, who is seeking medical termination of her pregnancy, and her family shall not be disclosed in the report prepared by registered medical practitioners (RMP) to the police.Section 19(1) of POCSO Act provides mandatory reporting of child sexual offences to the...
The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the Delhi Government to issue a circular directing that the identity of a minor girl, who is seeking medical termination of her pregnancy, and her family shall not be disclosed in the report prepared by registered medical practitioners (RMP) to the police.
Section 19(1) of POCSO Act provides mandatory reporting of child sexual offences to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police.
Justice Prathiba M Singh passed the direction after observing that the minors and their families may be forced to approach non-registered and unqualified medical practitioners, midwives and courts to terminate the pregnancies which could result in adverse impact on the health of the minor.
The court relied upon the Supreme Court judgment in X v. The Principal Secretary Health and Family Welfare Govt NCT of Delhi & Anr wherein registered medical practitioners have been exempted from mandatorily reporting the offences of "consensual sexual activity" under the POCSO Act.
Noting that as per the current position, the medical practitioners are “generally reluctant to carry out termination of pregnancy” without disclosing identity of the minor and her family and without lodging a police report, the court directed:
“Thus, in terms of the order passed by the Supreme Court, the GNCTD is directed to issue a circular to the effect that in case of any minor or the minor along with the family approaching any RMP for termination of a pregnancy, the identity of the minor, the guardian or the family, as may be deemed to be appropriate, shall not be disclosed in the RMP’s report to the police.”
The court further said that the termination of pregnancy shall be carried out in terms of the relevant procedures.
“The police shall also ensure that in such cases, the report which is registered does not disclose the identity of the minor or her family,” the court added.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a woman for medical termination of her 14 -year-old daughter's pregnancy without reporting the matter to the local police as the same, she said, would lead to social stigma, ostracization and harassment.
The foetus was 15 weeks and 4 days old as on January 6. According to the petition, the pregnancy arose out of a consensual relationship between the girl and a minor boy.
While the minor’s pregnancy was already terminated followed by an order passed by the court, Justice Singh noted that the petition raised “an urgent and immediate cause of concern” in respect of termination of pregnancies in case of the “unfortunate event of the pregnant person being a minor girl.”
The mother in her plea argued that the minor daughter did not want to continue the pregnancy as she was not physically and mentally prepared to raise the child and continuance of the same would cause immense injury to her physical and mental health.
Apart from seeking medical termination of pregnancy, the plea also sought direction on the Delhi Government to pass a circular or notification for Government and Private Hospitals, Registered Centers and Registered Medical Practitioners for providing services of medical termination of unwarranted pregnancy to minor girls, arising from consensual sexual activity, without reporting the case to the local police in the light of Supreme Court ruling.
During the course of hearing, the counsel appearing for Delhi Government highlighted another issue in cases of consensual sex between minors.
“There is another aspect to it, now when we are talking about it, it is only by keeping the female child in mind. Now the effect of that is also there on the male child. Again in the case of a consensual sex like the present one where both male and female child are involved, but the police registered the case as required under the POCSO Act. They boy's family's harassed, protection has not been given under the Act, nor by the judgment,” the counsel said.
Responding to the same, Justice Singh orally said: “The whole problem is, in case of a male child, if it's a minor there's one issue. Second issue is if it's consensual or not. Third is if it is a major, then all three situations will have to be seen.”
Directing the Delhi Government to address the issue so raised in an affidavit, the court listed the matter for hearing on March 10.
“You deal with it in your affidavit. On the next date I'll consider,” the court said.
As the petitioner’s counsel highlighted the situation in cases where the minor girl and her family do not want to pursue the case and do not want investigation against the boy, as in the present case, the court remarked:
“Should we permit that ... is the question. Then what stops the boy from having other relationships?…There has to be some check on it, no?”
Title: N v. Principal Secretary Health and Family Department GNCTD & Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 75
Click Here To Read Order