Pregnant Rape Survivor must be told about Legal Rights, says Top Court

New Delhi: Rape survivor, who becomes pregnant, must be told about her legal rights, the Supreme Court Friday said and issued notice to the Centre on a plea for setting up of medical boards in states and union territories to decide cases of unwanted pregnancies of over 20 weeks for termination. Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 prohibits  termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks. “If a woman is raped and is pregnant, she must be told about her legal rights,” said the bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde.

The bench, also comprising justice A S Bopanna, took up the larger issue of setting up of medical boards in every states and UTs after lawyer V K Biju, appearing for a 14-year-old rape survivor, decided not to seek permission to terminate the 26-week pregnancy of the survivor apparently on account of some medical opinion. The court has sought response of the Centre in four weeks.

Earlier, besides seeking nod  to abort the fetus of the survivor, the plea has sought  framing of guideline on appointment of medical boards “to decide cases of unwanted pregnancies that has crossed 20 weeks” in every states and UTs for termination of pregnancy. During brief hearing, Mr Biju said he was not seeking the permission to abort now, but sought setting up of medical boards in states saying “When I was drafting this petition, I had seen the pain of the parents (of the girl)”.

We will issue notice on this (prayer two). We will record your statement that you are not pressing prayer 1 (termination of pregnancy of the girl),” the bench said. If there is a local board to check such cases, it will be helpful, the bench told  Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati who was appearing in the matter.

“It is a different case when rape is not reported to you as a state. If it is reported, there can be some mechanism where you can follow up with the victim whether she is pregnant and what are her legal rights,” the bench told the law officer.

The law officer said she will file an affidavit giving all the details on the issue. Ms Bhati said that Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is passed by the Lok Sabha and it will be discussed in the Rajya Sabha.

The top court had on March 2 sought report from the medical board of civil hospital Karnal about the feasibility of her request for termination of pregnancy. The bench was hearing a plea filed by the minor who has said that she was pregnant after being raped by one of her relatives. The top court had earlier issued notices to the Centre and  Haryana government seeking their responses.

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