12 Oct 2023 4:51 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday (09.10.2023) in an order allowing the medical termination of pregnancy of a married woman who is 26 weeks pregnant has highlighted the importance of family planning and taking adequate precautions. It is however, important to note that on October 11th, while hearing the recall application filed by the Union against the said order, the bench of Justice Hima Kohli...
The Supreme Court on Monday (09.10.2023) in an order allowing the medical termination of pregnancy of a married woman who is 26 weeks pregnant has highlighted the importance of family planning and taking adequate precautions. It is however, important to note that on October 11th, while hearing the recall application filed by the Union against the said order, the bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice BV Nagarathna has referred the matter to a larger bench. The recall application was filed by the Union citing a subsequent medical report that said that the foetus has a high chance of survival.
While Justice Hima Kohli said that her "judicial conscience" does not allow her to permit the termination of pregnancy in the light of the latest medical report about the possibility of the survival of the foetus, Justice BV Nagarathna said she found no reason to interfere with the "well reasoned order" passed by the Court initially on October 9
The petitioner in this case had informed the Court that she used the contraceptive method of Lactational Amenorrhea, since she was breastfeeding her second child. However, this contraception method failed and resulted in her pregnancy, which she discovered belatedly. At this juncture, the Court stressed on the importance of family planning and the need to take adequate precautions:
“An unplanned pregnancy not only leads to the birth of an unwanted child, it is accompanied by myriad anxieties and complications that travel beyond the health of the mother, on a psychological and mental plane. It is, therefore expected of married couples to be careful in planning their families and take adequate timely precautions so that they do not end up knocking at the doors of the Court at the eleventh hour, praying for termination of pregnancies that have crossed the critical period as in the instant case, 26 weeks,” the Court had said in its 9th October order.
The Court also said that India being the most populated country in the world, each citizen has an obligation to be mindful of family planning. Once children born, an obligation is cast on the parents to raise them as responsible and healthy citizens, the Court reminded.
“As on date, India, is the most populated country in the world, with 1.4 billion population. The nation is striving to achieve social and economic development within the limited means and resources available. When it comes to planning a family, each citizen has an equal obligation to discharge in the interest of the society and the country.”
The Court also added that Governments, both central and states, should take adequate measures to ensure that citizens are educated about its schemes related to family planning and maternal health.
“Absence of adequate family planning measures can also result in unwanted and avoidable pregnancies. We are of the opinion that this ignorance ought to be addressed by the Central Government and the State Governments if all the schemes relating to family planning, maternal health and betterment of a child's health are given ample publicity and disseminated to all citizens in general and to married couples in particular. “
The Court also took the opportunity to highlight the evils of female in infanticide, even though this specific case did not pertain to it.
“This Court is also acutely mindful of the patriarchal mindset in many parts of the country and the intense desire to beget a male child sought to be validated by having a “Kuldeepak” to carry forward the name of the family. It is regrettable that even in this day and time, a girl child is not accepted by many as a 'Kuldeepika'. This regressive mindset is also responsible for female infanticide,” the Court said.
It may be noted that on October 11, the bench delivered a split verdict on allowing the woman to proceed with the abortion, after the Union of Indian filed a recall application citing that there is a fair chance of the child being born alive. However, the bench clarified that the divergence of opinion is limited to the directions issued in the operative para of the order dated 9th October, 2023 and that the rest of the order is maintained as it is.
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 877
Click here to read the order(personal details redacted)