A Delhi court Monday refused to allow a minor, who was allegedly raped by her relative, to terminate her 25-week pregnancy after a report filed by a medical board of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) maintained that there were no “clinical signs and symptoms of depression or mental problem” in the minor.
Citing the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, a plea seeking termination of the pregnancy – filed by the 16-year-old girl’s father – had stated that it was causing “grave injury to her “mental health”. After hearing the plea, filed through the Delhi Commission for Women counsel, the court had asked AIIMS to form a three-member panel to opine whether it would be safe for the child to terminate her pregnancy at this time.
On Monday, the court said, “It (report filed by the AIIMS panel) clearly opines that pregnancy in her case carries normal risk only as in any normal pregnancy. Under the circumstances, termination of pregnancy cannot be allowed at this stage.”
The minor was allegedly sexually assaulted by one of her relatives in west Delhi’s Sagarpur. Following the incident, the minor had on March 4, 2018, complained of “pain and discomfort” in her abdomen. Immediately after, a call was made on the Delhi Child Helpline – 181 – and it was found that the girl was pregnant. Subsequently, a rape case was registered, and relevant sections of the POCSO Act were added. During counselling sessions, the family members said they desired termination of the pregnancy. Hence, the application regarding the same was filed in court.
The father’s plea, filed on March 13, had stated: “That the victim is a minor and if such pregnancy is forced upon the victim, it will violate her right to personal liberty as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India… There are judgments of the Supreme Court, wherein it has permitted to terminate pregnancies beyond 24 weeks on the grounds mentioned in the statute.”
As per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971, abortions are permitted after consultation with one doctor up to 12 weeks. Between 12 to 20 weeks, medical opinion of two doctors is required. Further, only a registered allopathic physician in a registered facility is authorised to conduct the procedure. Beyond the 20-week ceiling, exceptions are legally permissible only if continuation of pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s life.
While hearing the case, the court had, on March 13, pulled up the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and issued a showcause notice to them for not following court orders and protocol pertaining to the care of the pregnant girl.
Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, state governments are required to establish a CWC or two in every district. The CWCs have the same powers as a metropolitan magistrate or a judicial magistrate of the first class. Whenever a child is brought before the committee, it sends the child to a children’s home while there is an ongoing inquiry for the protection of the child.
In the order on March 7, the CWC had ordered the Investigating Officer (IO) in the case to take appropriate action as per law. “Look into the matter into urgent basis and submit action/status report on the next date of hearing. Till further action the child will continue in CGH-1 (Children Girls Home, Nirmal Chhaya). Agency to provide necessary support and care. Counselling to be continued…,” the order had stated.
However, on March 13, the court noted that girl was produced in the court at 10 am despite being asked by the court to do it by 3 pm – that too without any support person. “…No one from the CHG-1 has accompanied her. Show cause notice be issued to the Superintendent CGH-1 to show cause as to why the victim was sent at 10 am (and not at 3 pm as directed) and also why she was not accompanied by the probation officer/any other responsible Officer of the CGH,” ordered the court.
During the court hearing, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) counsel informed the court that the child victim would be requiring “special care” which the parents of the girl will not be able to provide her as it has “understood” from interaction with them. The counsel further submitted that the current home for girls may also not be to able provide such “special care and suggested to shift her to Prayas (Home for Girls)”.
The court then ordered to shift her to a different home run by NGO Prayas and issued a notice to CWC through DCW. “Notice be issued to DCW to bring it to the knowledge that in almost all cases, no support person is being appointed by CWC. Further that the care is required in cases of incestuous offences is not being taken by the CWC members when the victim child is initially produced before them. The DCW needs to take note of the same and do the needful.”
In its explanation, the Superintendent of Nirmal Chhaya told court that no one accompanied the minor since the summons did not mention the child was be accompanied by an officer. The court then issued a notice to the Superintendent of Nirmal Chhaya which stated that “in future, whenever a victim is in their care, and summoned to court, she should be accompanied by a responsible officer of the Home. A notice was also issued to 3rd Batallion DCP to pick any victim from such Home in accordance with the time of production. “The time is given so as to not have a child victim waiting in the court room or elsewhere for his/ her turn to come,” the court said.