18 Nov 2021 4:31 PM GMT
The Orissa High Court, while refusing to allow a gang-rape survivor to terminate her over 26-week pregnancy, recently noted that time is of the essence in matters involving the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and no victim should suffer due to lack of onerous obligations involved in the process.The Bench of Justice S.K. Panigrahi was dealing with the plea of...
The Orissa High Court, while refusing to allow a gang-rape survivor to terminate her over 26-week pregnancy, recently noted that time is of the essence in matters involving the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and no victim should suffer due to lack of onerous obligations involved in the process.
The Bench of Justice S.K. Panigrahi 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.
Noting that when the victim and her father had approached the police station for the purpose of termination of pregnancy, they were directed to approach the concerned court as the charge sheet was filed by then, the court observed they:
"This Court feels that the Police officers could have acted more sensibly and, at the very least, guided them to approach District Legal Service Authority or Legal Services Units at Taluk Level or to any paralegal volunteers. This would have, perhaps, helped the victim to get timely legal advice and may have saved her from suffering the forced delivery, imposed on her due to medicolegal compulsions."
Further, the Court stressed the need that every policeman should be given a proper understanding of the working of legal services authority at different levels.
"The legal services authority at district level are also required to coordinate with the police department in setting up legal aid booths or providing legal services helpline numbers at each and every police station. The helpline numbers could be displayed in each police station to assist the victims," the Court added.
Further, the Court opined that the legal services authority could provide training Wmodules to the police stations to sensitize and make the police officers aware of the role and functions of the authority.
Also, the Court observed that upon registering a case, the police officers could then do well to suggest the victims to approach the nearest legal service authority for legal assistance, if required.
Although the court, in the instant case, painfully conscious of the possible impact of this decision on the life of the petitioner, noted that it was bound by the legal mandate.
Noting that the physical, mental, psychological trauma suffered by the petitioner is formidable and that 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, the Court observed thus:
"It leaves a scar on the psyche of the victim and an adverse impact on society. In the present case, the agony experienced by the petitioner has left a more visible impact. Only the sufferer knows the extent of the suffering. It is heart-wrenching to imagine the situation of the petitioner and what lies ahead of her."
Importantly, the Court also noted that where the victim chose to approach the Court through her guardian as per the MTP Act seeking termination of her undesired pregnancy albeit with some delay, her request should have been acceded to over and above the right to life of the child yet to be born.
"Though this issue has, time and again, knocks at the judicial threshold it is still crying for a unperplexed solution by way of suitable amendment in the statute governing the field," the Court added.
However, as regards the legal position, the court noted that as per the mandate of Section 3 of the MTP Act, in particular, leads only to one conclusion i.e., since the length of the pregnancy of the victim is over twenty-six weeks, this Court cannot permit its termination.
Lastly, 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 the 20-year-old gang-rape victim who became pregnant due to the offence committed against her.
Case title - 'X' v. State of Odisha & Ors
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