Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: In a petition, the petitioner, a 20-year-old unmarried female NEET aspirant who approached the Court seeking permission to medically terminate her ongoing pregnancy of 27 weeks, was denied permission by a Single Judge Bench of Subramonium Prasad, J., while stating that the case of the petitioner does not fall within the four corners of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (‘Act’) and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003 (‘Rules of 2003’) framed thereunder.

The facts of the case are that on feeling discomfort and heaviness in the abdomen, the petitioner got an ultrasound done through which it was found that she was 27 weeks pregnant. It was contended by the petitioner that carrying the pregnancy would cause grave injury to her physical and mental health.

It was also pointed out that the petitioner was an unmarried student without any source of income, and that there would be social stigma as well as harassment associated with her being pregnant. This would not only jeopardize her career but also her future.

The Court perused the Act, and its Rules of 2003 to note that Section 3 of the Act provides that when the length of pregnancy is within 20 weeks, it may be terminated by a registered medical practitioner. If a pregnancy exceeds 20 weeks but is within 24 weeks, the same may be terminated by the opinion of two registered medical practitioners.

It was also noted that Section 3(2)(b) of the Act provides for a pregnancy to be terminated even beyond 24 weeks where the termination is necessary because of any substantial abnormality in the foetus which is diagnosed by a medical board. Further, the Court also noted that as per Section 5 of the Act, a pregnancy exceeding 24 weeks may be allowed if an opinion is formed in good faith to save the life of the pregnant woman. This was also explained by the Supreme Court in X v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine 1338.

Thus, the Court stated that it was clear that a pregnancy that was beyond 24 weeks could only be terminated if the requirements of Section 5 of the Act were satisfied. Further, a report created by the Medical Board of AIIMS upon directions of the Court was referred which showed that there was no congenital abnormality in the foetus nor there was any danger to the mother. It was also stated that since there was no danger to the petitioner to carry on with the pregnancy, foeticide would neither be legally nor ethically permissible.

The Court further noted that the guidelines state that medical termination beyond 24 weeks is only permitted in cases of minor girls who are rape victims or when there are abnormalities in the foetus. The Court said that the case of the petitioner could not be accepted since it does not fall within the four corners of the Act and the Rules of 2003 framed thereunder.

While dismissing the petition, the Court stated that if the petitioner wants to approach AIIMS for the delivery, she may do so and that AIIMS would render all facilities and advise the petitioner on her pregnancy. Further, the Court directed the Union of India to ensure that a smooth process of adoption takes place at the earliest if the petitioner decides to give the child up for adoption.

[H v. Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 3383, Decided on 03-05-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioner — Advocate Amit Mishra

For Respondents — CGSC Arunima Dwivedi, GP Pinky Pawar, Advocate Aakash Pathak, Advocate Aditi Kapoor

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