August 31, 2009 1:19:02 am
The Supreme Court has left it to the Punjab and Haryana High Court to take a decision on the guardianship of the 19-year-old mentally challenged girl,who was allegedly raped at Nari Niketan,and her child.
In an affidavit to the Supreme Court,National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism,Cerebral Palsy,Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities has stated that it is prepared to look after the interests of the victim,including assistance with childcare.
The trust is also prepared to consult the Chandigarh Administration as well as experts from the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in order to ensure proper care and supervision. At present,the girl is under the care of the Chandigarh Administration.
The Supreme Court has also given UT Administration the liberty to approach the High Court if a conflict arises with regard to supervision and custody of the mother and child.
The Bench,comprising Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan,Justice P Sathasivam and Justice B S Chauhan,emphasised on respecting the choice of the mentally challenged victim. Her reproductive choice should be respected in spite of other factors such as her lack of understanding of the sexual act as well as apprehensions about her capacity to carry the pregnancy to its full term and the assumption of maternal responsibilities thereafter, held the Supreme Court.
It is important to recognise that reproductive choices can be exercised to procreate as well as to abstain from procreating. The crucial consideration is that a womans right to privacy and dignity should be respected. The courts decision should be guided by the interests of the victim alone and not those of other stakeholders such as guardians or society in general, the Supreme Court ruled.
A developmental delay in mental intelligence should not be equated with mental incapacity. As far as possible,the law should respect the decisions of persons who are found to be in a state of mild to moderate mental retardation, the SC ruled.
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