In a landmark ruling, the Gujarat High Court permitted the termination of a 24 weeks old foetus, borne by a minor rape survivor.
It is pertinent to note that the limit for medical termination of pregnancy, as per Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 ("the Act"), is 20 weeks. Consequently, the 21 weeks pregnant minor girl was not as such allowed to undergo abortion. The father of the minor hence pleaded the High Court to pass an appropriate order for termination of a forced pregnancy.
The court perused medical observations of an ad-hoc medical committee of doctors from Government Medical College, Surat that examined the rape survivor. The committee unanimously was of the opinion that continuation of pregnancy shall adversely affect the mental and physical health of the girl.
Resultantly, Justice S. H. Vora permitted the minor to proceed with termination of pregnancy. "No doubt, pregnancy exceeds 20 weeks, but considering the provisions of Section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, …termination of pregnancy is immediately necessary to save mental and physical health of the victim", he said. Section 5 of the Act states that where the length of pregnancy exceeds the limit as prescribed in Section 3 of the Act, pregnancy can be terminated in case in the opinion of the medical practitioner, termination of such pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of pregnant woman. The ruling was based on 'best interest' theory, he added. The Government Medical College, Surat was directed to preserve the tissues of the foetus for further investigation.Court also directed DLSA Chairman to provide interim compensation if the girl made such request.
Arguments for Petitioner were advanced by Advocate Rafik Lokhandwala and for Respondent by Shruti Pathak.
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