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Pregnant rape survivor must be told about legal rights: Supreme Court

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The court has sought a response from the Centre.

By Abraham Thomas

PUBLISHED ON MAR 12, 2021 07:38 PM IST

The Supreme Court on Friday suggested setting up a board which will advise rape survivors, who become pregnant, about their legal rights if they seek termination of the unwanted pregnancy.

“There could be a local board that can follow up with the rape survivor in cases where the rape is reported. A girl who gets pregnant must be told about her legal rights under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act,” the bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde and Justice AS Bopanna remarked.

Pointing to such a situation that may arise in future where a rape survivor is not saddled with a pregnancy that she does not desire, the bench wished to know from the Centre if something could be done in this regard.

The suggestion from the court came after it was faced with a case where a 14-year-old from Haryana wanted to abort her 26-week foetus. A medical board constituted at the instance of the court returned a finding that due to the advanced stage of pregnancy, it was not feasible to abort the foetus. Following the report, advocate VK Biju, appearing for the survivor, dropped the prayer for abortion but pressed for a general order from the top court to remedy such situations in future.

“The situation as it has arisen in the present case needs to be dealt with sensitivity and care,” the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, informed the court that an amendment to the MTP Act is at an advanced stage with the Bill in this regard being passed by the Lok Sabha is pending with the Rajya Sabha.

The amended law, she said, contemplates termination of pregnancy at 25 weeks in cases where a medical board feels that continuing pregnancy can endanger the mother or the child. She sought two weeks time to file a response in this regard.

Under the MTP Act, there is a legal bar on terminating pregnancy which is over 20 weeks. This is provided under Section 3(2)(b) of the Act. In the past, the Supreme Court has in exceptional cases allowed termination of pregnancy up to 26 weeks after consultation with a medical board.

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