Gujarat HC allows minor to terminate 19 weeks pregnancy; quotes Skanda Purana highlighting value of mother in society

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Gujarat High Court: While hearing a criminal application to terminate the pregnancy of a minor victim, Samir J. Dave, J. allowed the application and directed for termination of pregnancy of the minor victim. The Court quoted verse from ‘Skanda Purana’:

नस्ति मातृसमा छाया नास्ति मातृसमा गतिः।
नास्ति मातृसमं त्राणं त्राणं नास्ति मातृसमा प्रपा।।

The Court perused the medical report of the minor victim prepared by the panel of Doctors of GEMRS Medical College and noted that the minor victim was 19 weeks pregnancy and that it was opined that pregnancy can be terminated with usual risk associated with such condition keeping in mind age of patient and gestational age. The Court said that no significant systemic abnormality was detected with the pregnancy.

The Court also perused the minor victims statement made under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and opined that the minor victim was willing to terminate the pregnancy. Hence, the Court refused to accept the accused person’s contention that the dispute between the parties related to caste and that the minor victim had never agreed for her medical termination of pregnancy and that the application was filed only due to her parent’s pressure.

The Court referred to X v. Health & Family Welfare Department, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1321, wherein it was observed that “the decision to carry the pregnancy to its full term or terminate it is firmly rooted in the right to bodily autonomy and decisional autonomy of the pregnant woman” and “the right of every woman to make reproductive choices without undue interference from the state is central to the idea of human dignity. Deprivation of access to reproductive healthcare or emotional and physical well- being also injures the dignity of women”.

Therefore, the Court gave weightage to the minor victim’s wish and desire to terminate the pregnancy as the relationship between the accused and the minor victim did not have any legal recognition and the victim was a minor.

Further, the Court said that the value that mother held in our society can be recognized from the following verse of ‘Skanda Purana’:

नस्ति मातृसमा छाया नास्ति मातृसमा गतिः।
नास्ति मातृसमं त्राणं त्राणं नास्ति मातृसमा प्रपा।।

The Court explained the meaning of the said verse as, there is no shadow, shelter and protection like that of mother, and that there is no birth giver as her.

Thus, the Court allowed the application for medical termination of the pregnancy and directed the Chief Medical Officer/ Medical Superintendent, Civil Hospital to take necessary steps for undertaking the procedure of medical termination of pregnancy of the minor victim at the earliest possible time and in any case, within a period of one week from the date of Judgment. The Court also directed to preserve the subsequent DNA Test Report by drawing tissues from the foetus for the purpose of using it as a piece of evidence in the ensuing trial.

[XXX v. State of Gujarat, 2023 SCC OnLine Guj 2856, Decided on 08-09-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Applicant: Advocate Bhargav K. Mehta

For the Accused: Advocate Amit N. Chaudhary, Advocate Devendra Patel

For the State of Gujarat: Assistant Public Prosecutor Bhargav Pandya

*Deeksha Dabas, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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