Read Order: ‘XXX’ v. The State of Maharashtra

Tulip Kanth

New Delhi, May 26, 2022: Allowing the plea of a teen rape victim to undergo medical termination of pregnancy, the Bombay High Court has opined that continuance of this pregnancy will continue to cause a grave injury to her mental health and there is an inherent risk to her life considering her tender age.

The Division Bench of Justice P.D.Naik and Justice Abhay Ahuja referred to the provisions of the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act, 1971 and observed that  u/s 3(2)(b)(i) termination of pregnancy is allowed if the continuance of the pregnancy involved a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or grave injury to her physical or mental health. Explanation 2 to this sub-section provides that when the pregnancy has been caused by rape, the anguish caused by the pregnancy shall be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman, the Bench added.

In this case, an FIR was lodged at Virar Police station under section 376(3) of the I.P.C. and under sections 4, 8 and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, Act, 2012. The victim was allegedly sexually assaulted/raped by her cousin brother, at her ancestral home in Bihar. Later, it was found that she was pregnant and her Medical report mentioned that the fetus is single live early intrauterine gestation of gestational age 12 weeks and 5 days.  This petition had been filed by Petitioner, who is a minor girl aged 14 years and 6 months, in her 15th to 16th week of pregnancy, through her father for permission to undergo medical termination of pregnancy.

Placing reliance on the report of the Expert Committee, the Bench stated that it was clear from such findings that continuation of pregnancy of minor may lead to pregnancy related complications. It was therefore,  recommended that since the girl is a minor and the case is of alleged sexual assault, she cannot continue the pregnancy to term. Referring to various judgments wherein the  medical termination of pregnancy in cases of victims of alleged sexual assault has been permitted, the Bench said, “Considering the physiological and psychological injury that she may suffer by virtue of her continued pregnancy at such a tender age, forcing Petitioner to continue with the pregnancy would be a serious affront to her fundamental right to exercise reproductive choices, to her bodily integrity and her dignity.”

The Bench also discussed the judgment of the Top Court in Z Vs. State of Bihar and others and observed that minor victim’s pregnancy has been caused by the alleged rape, which reportedly has caused anguish to her and constituted grave injury to her mental health. Therefore, although the statutory period of twenty four weeks was not over, however, the High Court  permitted the petitioner  to undergo medical termination of pregnancy considering that she was a victim of alleged sexual assault.

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