Ker HC | On what grounds can pregnancy of a mentally unsound woman be terminated? Is consent of women indispensable? HC answers

Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: P.B.Suresh Kumar, J., invoked the doctrine of parens patriae to permit termination of eight weeks pregnancy of a medically unsound rape victim.

 The instant petition was filed by Kerala State Legal Services Authority espousing the cause of a hapless rape victim diagnosed with psychosis. The victim was found wandering within the limits of Kazhakoottam Police Station and was taken by the Police initially to a psycho-social rehabilitation centre and then to the Mental Health Centre.

The Medical Board at the Mental Health Centre found the victim to be pregnant, having gestation period corresponding to eight weeks as on 04-06-2021. As the relatives of the victim could not be traced, the Superintendent of the Mental Health Centre apprised the plight of the victim to the District Legal Services Authority and the writ petition was filed on that reference, seeking orders granting permission for medical termination of the pregnancy of the victim alleging that in terms of the provision contained in Section 3(4)(a) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, the victim being a major, her consent was required for terminating the pregnancy, but the victim was not in a position to grant such consent for termination of the pregnancy.

Perusal of Certificate issued by the Medical Board indicated that the victim was suffering from mental retardation with psychosis and was under treatment as an inpatient. It was recited in the said Certificate that the victim was unable to take decision or communicate her opinion.

The report submitted by the Medical Board stated that though continuation of the pregnancy did not endanger the life of the victim, there was a high risk for the mother and baby, as the victim was on multiple anti-psychotic medication. Continuation of pregnancy was riskier than termination at that in view of expected maternal complications due to the present mental status. Therefore, the Medical Board opined that the patient required observation and detailed evaluation, so as to comment upon her mental status conclusively and also to assess the capacity to take decision on her own.

In the light of the provision contained in sub-section (2)(b)(i) of Section 3 of the Act, 1971 and Explanation 2 to the said sub-section, the Bench held that the pregnancy was one that could be terminated on the basis of the opinion of two medical practitioners. As noted, the impediment in the matter of terminating the pregnancy of the victim was that she was not in a position to give consent for the same.

Reliance was placed by the Court on Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Admn., (2009) 9 SCC 1, wherein it was held that, “one among the said tests is the test of “best interests” which requires the court to ascertain the course of action which would serve the best interests of the person in question.”

Having regard to the fact that the person involved in the case was a rape victim and considering the opinion of the Medical Board, the Bench invoked the Hence, invoking the doctrine of parens patriae, to hold it was in the best interests of the person concerned to permit termination of her pregnancy. The writ petition was allowed and the respondents were permitted to terminate the pregnancy of the victim at the earliest, without insisting on the consent of the victim. However, considering that the person involved was a rape victim, the Bench passed further directions ordering respondents to take the tissue of the fetus and maintain the same for DNA examination.[Kerala State Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, WP(C) NO. 12278 of 2021, decided on 26-07-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Appearance by:

Counsels for the Petitioners: K.P.Pradeep, T.T.Biju, T.Thasmi and M.J.Anoopa

Counsels for the Respondents: P.Vijayakumar, ASG and Initha B, Government Pleader

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