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"Justice Is Sum Of All Moral Duty": Orissa HC Orders ₹10 Lakh Compensation For Gang Rape Survivor Carrying Over 26-Week Pregnancy

Sparsh Upadhyay
18 Nov 2021 4:55 AM GMT
Justice Is Sum Of All Moral Duty: Orissa HC Orders ₹10 Lakh Compensation For Gang Rape Survivor Carrying Over 26-Week Pregnancy
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Quoting political philosopher William Godwin, the Orissa High Court, while stressing that Justice is the sum of all moral duty, directed the State Government to pay ₹10 Lakh as compensation to a 20-year-old gang-rape victim who became pregnant due to the offence committed against her.However, the Bench of Justice S.K. Panigrahi refused the permission sought...

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Quoting political philosopher William Godwin, the Orissa High Court, while stressing that Justice is the sum of all moral duty, directed the State Government to pay ₹10 Lakh as compensation to a 20-year-old gang-rape victim who became pregnant due to the offence committed against her.

However, the Bench of Justice S.K. Panigrahi refused the permission sought by the victim to terminate her over 26-week pregnancy noting that the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 do not permit the termination of pregnancy of the petitioner.

Facts of the case

Essentially, the Court was dealing with the plea of a gang-rape victim who is carrying over 26-week pregnancy, who was denied permission to abort her child by the court of S.D.J.M., Banki, on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. Challengng the order, she moved to the High Court.

It was submitted by her counsel that being an unmarried young girl, she has not just suffered physically and mentally but has also been deprived of maintaining a dignified social life due to the commission of the said offence.

It was also argued that the petitioner has been pregnant for more than 4 months and feels morally insecure to step out of her house due to the horrendous social stigma attached to such a crime.

In pursuance of the order of the Court, the medical team of S.C.B. Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack submitted that it may be unsafe for getting the termination done at this stage (over 26-week pregnancy).

In fact, the report stated that allowing the termination at this stage could endanger the mother's life or even lead to a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function

[NOTE: As per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021, which came into force with effect from 24th September 2021, the upper limit for medical termination of pregnancy has been raised to 24 weeks, from the earlier stipulation of 20 weeks, for certain categories of women which will be defined in the MTP Rules. These categories will include 'vulnerable women' including rape victims.

As per the Amendment, the opinion of one doctor will be required for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks; and the opinion of two doctors will be required for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.] 

Court's observations

The Court, at the outset, observed that crime like rape affects the lives of victims and associated physical and emotional consequences.

"Rape is a crime not only against a woman but against humanity at large as it brings out the most brutal, depraved and hideous aspects of human nature. It leaves a scar on the psyche of the victim and an adverse impact on society," the Court remarked

Further, taking into account the scheme of the MTP Act, the Court noted that in the instant case there is no medical opinion that termination of pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the petitioner as per Section 5 of the MTP Act.

"Viewed from every angle, the provisions of the MTP Act do not permit the termination of pregnancy of the petitioner," the Court observed.
"There is no opinion of any registered medical practitioner that the continuance of pregnancy of the petitioner would involve a risk to her life or grave injury to her physical or mental health. Further, there is no suggestion that if the child were born, it would suffer from any physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped." the Court added indicating that she can't be permitted to terminate her pregnancy.

Further, observing that she is being forced to bear and care for the unwanted child is bound to severely impact her personality and womanhood, the Court opined that her request should have been acceded to over and above the right to life of the child yet to be born.

Against this backdrop, the Court did add that such an issue is still crying for an unperplexed solution by way of suitable amendment in the statute governing the field.

Additionally, stressing that the ordeal of mental agony and fear of social ostracism can take a toll on the victim and even on the unborn child, the Court ruled that in the instant case, there is no other legal option for her but to undergo suffering and deliver the baby since the pregnancy is over twenty-six weeks old.

Lastly, ordering 10 lakh compensation, the Court also directed the District Collector, Cuttack to ensure that arrangements are made to provide proper diet, medical supervision and medicines as may be necessary, to the victim throughout the remaining part of her journey of pregnancy.

When the time for delivery arrives, proper medical facilities be made available for safe delivery of the child, the Court issued the direction.

Case title - 'X' v. State of Odisha & Ors

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