Bombay HC allows cancer-afflicted rape victim to terminate pregnancy

• The Bombay High Court Friday permitted a 14-year-old rape victim afflicted with cancer to medically terminate her pregnancy which is now in the 24th week.

• A bench of Justices A S Oka and M S Sonak told the girl to visit the J J Hospital at 11.00 am Saturday and directed the dean of the hospital to ensure that medical termination of the pregnancy was performed by expert doctors expeditiously.

• The girl’s parents had approached high court Wednesday seeking permission for the medical termination of pregnancy.

Important highlight of this judgment

• According to the plea, the girl, who is now in the 24th week of her pregnancy, was raped earlier this year and an FIR was registered in the case.

• However, her pregnancy, resulting from the rape, was detected only recently when she went to a local hospital for her chemotherapy session.

• She has been suffering from blood cancer since 2010, her lawyer Kuldeep Nikam told the court.

• The girl’s father is a daily wage labourer and her mother works as a domestic help.

• The bench had earlier directed the dean of the J J Hospital to constitute a panel of expert doctors, including a psychiatrist, to assess the girl’s health condition and to suggest whether medical termination of the pregnancy at such a late stage can be permitted.

Significance of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act

• The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act permits abortions after consultation with one doctor for up to 12 weeks.

• Between 12 and 20 weeks, the medical opinion of two doctors is required in such cases where the foetus has abnormalities.

• In which the pregnant woman faces risks to her physical or mental well-being due to continuing with the pregnancy.

• Beyond the 20-week limit, exceptions are legally permissible only if continuation of the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the unborn child or the mother.

Way forward

• The bench also suggested that the girl’s parents approach the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority to seek legal and financial assistance for the girl’s education and well-being in the future.

• Justice Oka said that in the past,in a similar case, the MSLSA and some members of the bar had helped sponsor the education of a minor rape victim.

• Advocate Nikam informed the bench that while the girl used to go to school earlier, she had discontinued her studies following the rape incident.

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

Prelims level: Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act

Mains level: Not so important