The Supreme Court Friday turned down a plea for medically terminating the 32-week pregnancy of a 10-year-old rape victim from Chandigarh following expert medical advice that an abortion would be dangerous to the girl’s health. A bench of Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud also asked the Centre to examine if it was possible to have permanent medical boards in states to decide on such matters, given the increasing number of abortion pleas being filed in the apex court.
“In view of the recommendation of the medical board, we are satisfied (that it is) neither in the interest of the girl child or foetus which is approximately 32 weeks to order abortion. However, we are of the view that the girl child should be extended due medical care. We are informed that she is being treated at the government hospital in… Chandigarh, and we are satisfied it is fully equipped to render full medical aid possible,” the court said. The court also said that it shall be open to doctors to examine the girl and follow the best course possible.
On July 24, the court had ordered a medical examination of the girl at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh. After perusing the report, which was submitted in a sealed cover on Friday, the bench said the medical opinion was that given the advanced stage of pregnancy, it will be “good if pregnancy was to continue and bad if was to be discontinued”.
The girl was subjected to repeated rape allegedly by her maternal uncle, and the pregnancy was confirmed by doctors at the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in Chandigarh. On July 18, a local court refused permission for an abortion on the basis of a GMCH report, which warned that there could be “high chances of physical trauma”, considering the girl’s age and health.
The plea in Supreme Court was filed by a Delhi-based advocate, who claimed that doctors were of the opinion that the girl’s pelvis wasn’t fully developed and tolerating a full-term pregnancy would be risky.Following the Supreme Court’s directions, the PGIMER formed an eight-member panel of senior doctors, including six department chiefs, to examine the girl.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, bars abortions above 20 weeks of pregnancy with the exception in section 5 which allows such termination “is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman”. Regarding the setting up of medical boards in states to examine such cases, the bench said, “A lot of these cases are coming to us these days…While the Bill (MTP Amendment Bill) is pending, can you have medical boards in states so that at first stage itself, such cases can be dealt with. In the background of the fact that large number of such cases are coming to us and time is so short to for us to take such decision, it will be good if appropriate legislative mechanism is available at state levels.”
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who was present in court, said he would revert on the matter after consulting the central government.