The Kerala High court on Saturday allowed the petition of a 14-year-old rape survivor to terminate her 24-week pregnancy. Terming it a 'difficult and disheartening situation', a division bench comprising Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly passed the order after an urgent hearing held via video-conferencing.
Justices Nambiar and Chaly after going through the relevant legal provisions, the findings of a medical board and the opinion of a medical expert via video conference, allowed the plea, according to a report by Bar and Bench.
“We are of the view that Y’s (the survivor’s) right to make reproductive choices is also a facet of her personal liberty as understood under Article 21 of our Constitution. The said choice would extend to deciding whether or not to carry her pregnancy to its full term,” the bench stated.
The judges in the order added that although the said right is subject to “the restrictions imposed under the MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) Act, we can find that the report of a Medical Board justifies Y’s decision and that she also has her parents consent to do the same.”
After a sessions court rejected the plea due to the fact that the survivor’s pregnancy had exceeded the permissible 20 week period as per the MTP act, the survivor’s father moved the high court.
While reports stated that she had eloped with a married man, considering that the survivor is a minor, this legally amounts to kidnapping. Although a case was registered against the man under the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO), 20 weeks had already elapsed by the time the child’s custody was restored to the parents.
The high court arrived at the decision after a report by a medical board which said that the pregnancy posed substantial risks to the 14-year-old physical and mental health, given her young age. It could also pose risks to the child, the report stated. These findings were also supported by a medical expert. The court was also informed that the child did not wish to continue with the pregnancy.
The court then referred to section 5 of the MTP Act which allows for an exception, where the 20-week rule can be disregarded under exceptional circumstances when the mother’s life is in danger.
Following this, the court directed for the speedy conduct of the procedure for medical termination of the pregnancy.