Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bakhru, J., observed that If an HIV positive person is aware of their condition and has unprotected sex, the person can be punished under Section 270 of Penal Code, 1860.

Appellant was convicted by the trial court under Sections 376/313/307 of Penal Code, 1860.

Appellant was found guilty of raping his stepdaughter and since the appellant was found to be infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV Positive) and was convicted for an offence punishable under Section 307 of IPC — attempt to murder.

Trial Court also observed that since the appellant was aware that his acts could result in transmitting the potentially lethal disease, he had knowingly committed an act, which if resulted in transmitting of HIV and consequently, the death of the victim from that disease, it would amount to murder.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Conviction for Rape — offence punishable under Section 376 of IPC

Whether there is any doubt that the appellant is guilty of committing an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC?

Considering that the prosecutrix gave varied statements at various points of time and had changed her stand on oath. The testimony of the prosecutrix could not be considered as wholly reliable and the trial court erred in proceeding on the said basis. However, Court also denied accepting that she was a wholly unreliable witness.

Further, in view of the above Court stated that it would be unsafe to rely on the testimony of the prosecutrix without any corroborative evidence and hence solely on her testimony, the appellant cannot be convicted.

Bench made another observation that,

in the instant case, there is unimpeachable corroborative evidence that the petitioner had raped the prosecutrix. The DNA Fingerprints of the Products of Conception and the DNA Fingerprints generated from the blood sample of the petitioner conclusively established that the appellant was the biological father of the abortus.

Repeatedly Raped

It is also material to note that the prosecutrix had in the first instance, when she was brought to the Community Care Centre, reported to the nurse that her stepfather had been repeatedly establishing physical relations with her and had been sexually abusing her in front of her siblings.

Even the medical report recorded:

“Repeated Rape by HIV positive stepfather after the death of mother suffering from HIV/AIDS in Jan 2011. Patient was overdue by one week in April 2011 when she was given an injection to get back her periods back. She bled with clots and pieces. UPT done showing pregnancy positive result.”

High Court concurred with the decision of the trial court that the evidence obtained in the present case clearly established beyond any reasonable doubt that the appellant had engaged in sexual intercourse with prosecutrix without her consent and had committed an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC.

Conviction for causing miscarriage – offence punishable under Section 313 IPC

Whether it is established that the appellant is guilty of committing an offence punishable under Section 313 of the IPC?

Trial Court had held that the appellant was guilty of causing miscarriage to the prosecutrix by administering her pills. It is relevant to note that though the prosecutrix was in Sneh Sadan when she was allegedly administered pills by the appellant and the same was allegedly informed to doctors immediately, no action was taken by any of the doctors in this regard.

Bench stated that there is no material to indicate as to what pills were administered to the prosecutrix. Although three medical doctors were examined, none of them mentioned that in their opinion the prosecutrix‘s miscarriage was induced by the said pills.

Hence, the Court stated that there was no description of the pills allegedly administered to the prosecutrix. There is nothing on record to remotely indicate as to what was the substance that was allegedly administered to the prosecutrix.

Court was of the view that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the appellant had committed the offence of causing the prosecutrix‘s miscarriage. Therefore, the appellant‘s conviction for committing an offence under Section 313 of the IPC could not be sustained.

Conviction for an attempt to murder – offence punishable under Section 307 IPC

Bench did not concur with the view that the appellant was guilty of an offence punishable under Section 307 IPC for several reasons.

Firstly, that the import of holding so would also mean that any sexual activity by a person infected by HIV is punishable under Section 307 of the IPC, notwithstanding that his or her partner has consented to such sexual activity. This is because the culpable act under Section 307 of the IPC does not cease to be one if the victim of such an act has also consented to the same.

Secondly, the trial court had drawn support for its conclusion by mentioning that several countries prosecute cases of transmission of HIV and non-disclosure of HIV status. However, the court had not examined the specific provisions or the rationale used in various jurisdictions for prosecuting non-disclosure of HIV positive status as general offences.

In cases of actual transmission where an HIV Negative person acquires the said disease as a result of engaging in any sexual activity with an HIV Positive partner, the offender is prosecuted for causing bodily harm.

In certain cases where an HIV Positive person fails to disclose his status and engages in any sexual activity, he/she may be prosecuted for sexual assault as in such cases, the consent of the other person to engage in sexual intercourse is vitiated and the sexual act can be construed as one without consent.

In cases of sexual assault or rape, it is widely accepted that the HIV Positive status of the offender is an aggravating factor to be considered while sentencing the offender.

Thirdly, on a plain reading of Section 307 of IPC, an offence under Section 307 IPC is not made out.

Section 307 of the IPC punishes any act which is done by a person with such intention or knowledge and under the circumstances that by that act cause death, the persons committing such act would be guilty of murder.

Bench observed that clearly, in the facts of the present case, the appellant had not raped the prosecutrix with an intention of causing her death.

According to the prosecution, the appellant was lonely after the death of his wife and he had sexually preyed on his stepdaughter (as allegedly disclosed by him in his disclosure statement).

It is relevant to note that one of the key ingredients of the second, third and fourth limb of Section 300 of the IPC is that the culpable act is so inherently dangerous as is likely to cause death; or is sufficient in the normal course of nature to cause death; or in all probability, it would cause death.

The assumption that penetrative sexual assault would in all probability lead to transmission of the disease, which in all probability would result in the death of a healthy partner is not established. In the facts of the present case, no evidence whatsoever was led to establish the probability of the prosecutrix being transmitted the said disease.

In the given circumstances, the decision of the Trial Court is largely based on surmises and impressions, without analysis of any scientific data to assume that sexual intercourse by an HIV positive patient would in all probability lead to the demise of his partner.

Fourthly, the appellant was medically examined and there is no evidence to indicate that he was a carrier of Herpes Simplex Virus. Thus, there is no evidence that the appellant would have transmitted the said disease to the prosecutrix.

Lastly, this Court is of the view that the Trial Court had erred in proceeding on the basis that provisions of Section 270 of the IPC would not be applicable.

In Supreme Court’s decision of Mr ‘X’ v. Hospital ‘Z’: (1998) 8 SCC 296, a case was considered where the respondent hospital had disclosed that the appellant was HIV positive to his fiancé. As a result of such disclosure, the appellant‘s marriage to his fiancé was called off. Appellant instituted an action to recover damages on the ground that the information regarding his HIV positive status was required to be kept secret under medical ethics and was disclosed illegally. The appellant pleaded that since the hospital had breached its duty to maintain confidentiality, they were liable to pay damages to the appellant.

“…the reasoning that unprotected sexual engagement by an HIV positive person, who is aware of the nature of his disease, can be termed as a negligent act, which he knows is likely to spread the infection of a disease that endangers life and is thus, liable to be punished under Section 270 of the IPC is persuasive and cannot be faulted.”

Court opined that even if the Trial Court was of the view that it would not be apposite to frame charges under Section 270 of the IPC, the same did not necessarily warrant that charges be framed under Section 307 of IPC.

In view of the above, the impugned judgment to the extent that it convicts the appellant for committing an offence punishable under Section 376 of the IPC was upheld.

Punishment for offences under Sections 313 and 307 of IPC was set aside. [Sabhajeet Maurya v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1525, decided on 26-11-2020]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the United States: While looking into the validity of Louisiana’s Act 620 laying out certain laws for abortion, the 9 Judge Bench of the Court with a ratio of 5:4, held that Louisiana’s Act 620 imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the nearly similar Texas law invalidated in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 US (2016), therefore the legislation is unconstitutional. The majority comprised of John Roberts, CJ., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, JJ.

As per Louisiana’s Act 620, “any doctor who performs abortions to hold active admitting privileges at a hospital . . . located not further than thirty miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.”

The impugned Act defines ‘active admitting privileges’ as being ‘a member in good standing’ of the hospital’s medical staff . . . with the ability to admit a patient and to provide diagnostic and surgical services to such patient.” This legislation was challenged by five abortion clinics and four abortion providers for being unconstitutional as it imposed an undue burden on the right of their patients to obtain an abortion. The plaintiffs prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining order followed by a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from taking effect. Previously, the District Court had declared Act 620 as unconstitutional on its face and preliminarily enjoined its enforcement. However, the Fifth Circuit Court reversed the decision of the District Court.

Perusing the trajectory of the case and contentions raised by the plaintiffs, the majority reversing the decision of the Fifth Circuit Court observed that, the impugned legislation and the facts of the case are very similar to an earlier decision of this Court i.e. the Whole Woman’s Health case where the Texas law on abortion was challenged.

The majority further referred to its decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833, wherein it was held that unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right and are therefore constitutionally invalid. It was noted that in issues identical to this instant case, the Courts must independently review the legislative findings upon which an abortion-related statute rests and must weigh the law’s “asserted benefits against the burdens” it imposes on abortion access. Examining in detail the approach taken by the District Court to ascertain the unconstitutionality of the Act 620, the majority seemed satisfied with the conclusion drawn by the District Court and held that, “because Louisiana’s Act 620 imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the nearly identical Texas law invalidated four years ago in Whole Woman’s Health case it cannot stand under principles of stare decisis.”

The dissenting opinion was delivered by Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch, JJ., who observed that the majority had misused the principle of stare decisis. [June Medical Services v. Stephen Russo, 2020 SCC OnLine US SC 4 , decided on 29-06-2020]      

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Dinesh Mehta, J. while allowing the present petition with regard to termination of pregnancy, stated that,

“…petitioner has been impregnated by an unknown person, consequent to her forced promiscuous physical relations.”

Petition by the present petition sought appropriate directions for termination of her pregnancy.

It has been stated in the petition that petitioner was brought to Pali (Rajasthan) by one of her relatives and handed over to Jannat Bano who runs a brothel. Petitioner was brought in without her consent and forced to work as a sex worker.

Further it was averred by the petitioner that consequent to her coitus with one of the hundreds unknown, she had been impregnated.

With a conception of about 20 weeks when petitioner approached medical practitioner for termination of her pregnancy, they flatly refused, citing that the pregnancy was of more than 20 weeks.

Bench, with a view to ward off possibility of pressure or coercion, deemed it expedient to record petitioner’s statement, wherein petitioner stated that she had been forced in fornication by Jannat Bano against her wishes.

Adding to the above, she stated that a year ago she had conceived and the termination of pregnancy was facilitated and financed by Jannat Bano. But at this time, she was note permitted by Jannat Bano to get rid of her pregnancy and instead wanted the petitioner to deliver the baby os that he/she can be either used or sold for money.

Petitioner also asserts that she wants to get rid of the sex racket and lead a respectable life.

Court stated that, medical termination of pregnancy is permissible for purpose of protecting the victim, from the trauma of being ravished, coupled with the fact that the baby to be born will remain with her and continue to remind her of the agony she has suffered during her confinement in brothel.

It was thus observed that,

“…abortion is imperative, so that petitioner can settled in life and the baby does not emerge as a snag in her possible peaceful life.”

If the child in womb is allowed to be born, his/her mental agony will be no less. He/she will always be reminded of petitioner’s past and the fact that his/her paternity is not known, will continue to throb his/her heart and hammer his/her mind and soul.

Court also opined that, petitioner’s mental agony is comparable to a victim of rape.

Thus, in view of the above, petition is allowed and Superintendent of Umaid Hospital, Jodhpur is directed to carry out the medical termination of petitioner’s pregnancy. [Muskan v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine Raj 396, decided on 09-04-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

“Court can only iron out the creases but while doing so, it must not alter the fabric, of which an Act is woven”

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The instant petition was contemplated by S.K. Awasthi, J., in which the petitioner who was the father of the rape victim sought termination of pregnancy for his 14 years old daughter.

The unfortunate facts were that a girl about 14 years old was raped and because of the alleged crime, she got pregnant. The girl was 22 weeks pregnant and as per the reports she was fit for termination of pregnancy.

The Hospital in its report submitted that pre-anesthetic & medical checkup and opinion of consultant Anesthesia and Medicine, Psychiatry was required in case if the medical method of termination failed and surgical intervention was required, however, the case was suitable for termination of pregnancy under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

The counsel for the petitioner Amit Dubey submitted that the report by the competent hospital reflected that abortion could have been carried out with the permission of the Court. The relevant statutory provisions i.e. Sections 3 and 5(1) of Act, 1971, stated when pregnancies were to be terminated and one of the clauses was, ‘where the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks, if not less than two registered medical practitioners are of opinion, formed in good faith that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury physical or mental health’; as the girl was very young the counsel argued that the pregnancy might ruin her mental health and there was a risk to the life of the girl. It was further contended that the Act of 1971, also provided for an explanation clause i.e., ‘Where any, pregnancy is alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape, the anguish caused by such pregnancy shall be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.’

The counsel relied on Murugan Nayakkar v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1902, where the Supreme Court granted termination of pregnancy to a 13-year-old girl who was a victim of rape and sexual abuse, the Supreme Court had held that, “Considering the age of the petitioner, the trauma she has suffered because of the sexual abuse and the agony she is going through at present and above all the report of the Medical Board constituted by this Court, we think it appropriate that termination of pregnancy should be allowed.”

The Court observed that while interpreting the provisions of Section 5 of the Act of 1971, it was to be borne in mind that principle that the section must be construed as a whole whether or not one part was a saving clause and similarly elementary rule of construction of section was made of all the parts together and that it was not permissible to omit any part of it; the whole section must be read together. Hence, the termination was granted on the said grounds.[Ritika Prajapat v. State of M.P, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 1687, decided on 18-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Fateh Deep Singh, J. allowed the bail application on the ground that trial was not going to finish in near future. 

The facts of the case were that a decoy woman patient who was pregnant was sent for abortion purposes and on the asking of the accused who demanded Rs 12,000, Rs 4000 was paid as advance and balance was to be paid on next day. In pursuance of this settlement, it was alleged that the petitioner gave one tablet to the lady patient to consume and another tablet was placed in her vagina to facilitate abortion.  Thus the case against the petitioner was lodged. 

Abhishek Singh, counsel for the petitioner contended that petitioner was behind the bars for more than six months and that there was no medical evidence to show that the petitioner had facilitated abortion of pregnancy which as per the own stand of the prosecution was on account of willingness of the alleged patient and neither there was any recovery of tablet from the vaginal area nor any medical report to establish abortion on that account and nature of tablet. It was further argued that the trial was not likely to be concluded in the near future, hence prayed for the grant of bail application. 

Baljinder Virk, counsel for the state opposed the grant of bail on the grounds of the heinousness of crime and seriousness of allegations. 

High Court opined that as petitioner was behind the bar for more than six months and a debatable issue arises over the applicability of offence for which the petitioner has been hauled up or are cognizable or non-cognizable and the fact that the trial is not likely to be concluded in near future, thus no purpose will be served by retaining the petitioner in jail. Thus the bail application was allowed to satisfaction of the chief judicial magistrate. [Gogi Rani v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1019, decided on 31-05-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by media, Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit abortion after the detection of an embryonic heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks from conception, often before a woman even realises she is pregnant.

The bill has come as a direct challenge to the United States Supreme Court Judgment in Roe v. Wade, 1973 SCC OnLine US SC 20 that legalises a Woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

[Source: The Wire]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of V.M. Deshpande, J. dismissed an appeal challenging the judgment and order of Additional Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 376 and 506 IPC along with Sections 5 and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

Appellant was accused of committing the offence of rape and sexual assault on a mentally-retarded minor girl victim after which she became pregnant. After the victim’s pregnancy came to light, she had to undergo an abortion and subsequently a case was filed against the appellant. For the said offence he was tried and convicted by the Additional Sessions Judge and sentenced to suffer imprisonment. Aggrieved thereby, appellant challenged the said judgment in the present appeal on various grounds.

One of the grounds contended by R.M. Patwardhan, Advocate for the appellant was that the DNA report should not be accepted as there was no reason for the medical officer who conducted abortion of the victim’s pregnancy to preserve the aborted foetus for DNA testing in absence of registration of offence against anybody.

Rejecting appellant’s contention as meaningless, the High Court noted Dr Kanchan Gadhe’s presence of mind and commitment towards her duty and opined that preservation of foetus was not unnatural as she knew that abortion was conducted on the minor unmarried girl. Furthermore, relying on Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2017 (6) SCC 1, the Court observed, “the DNA report or scientific method to determine the paternity or sexual assault is firmly established. The only challenge for it can be set up that there occurred tampering with the blood sample of the accused at any stage.” Since there was no such challenge in the present case, the DNA report was accepted. Not finding any infirmity in the impugned order, the court dismissed the appeal. [Shaktiman v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 139, dated 29-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Himachal Pradesh: While deciding a writ petition, a Division Bench comprising of Dharam Chand Chaudhary, J. and Vivek Singh Thakur, J. allowed the abortion of a 32 week developed foetus on the ground that it was risky for the petitioner to complete the normal period of pregnancy and deliver child on the due date.

The petitioner, aged 19 years, having mild to moderate mental retardation, approached the Court for seeking a direction to the Medical Superintendent, Kamla Nehru Hospital for Mother and Child, Shimla to arrange for abortion of a foetus in her womb. The Court gave a direction for conducting medical examination of the petitioner by a medical board. The report of the medical board revealed that there were major complications in the growth of the foetus in petitioner’s womb and the vaginal delivery of the same would cause danger to the life of petitioner as well as the baby. The medical board was of the opinion that the petitioner should go for premature delivery with surgical intervention because if pregnancy is allowed to continue up to its normal tenure, the head size of the foetus will increase further and in that event the surgery is going to become more complicated, besides causing more risk to petitioner’s life.

The Court perused the material available on record including the medical opinion of the board constituted and relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in WP (Civil) No. 17 of 2017, (decided 16-01-2017). The Court was of the view that the continuation of pregnancy would endanger the physical and mental health of the petitioner. The risk of termination of her pregnancy was within the acceptable limits. The relief sought in this writ petition, was also covered by Section 3(2)(i) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Although the pregnancy was at an advance stage of 32 weeks, however, having regard to the danger to the life of the petitioner and expert opinion that the foetus may not survive to extra uterine life, the Court granted permission to the petitioner to terminate the pregnancy. The petitioner had every right to take all steps necessary to preserve her own life against the avoidable dangers to it. Accordingly, the petition was allowed and directions were given to the respondent to arrange for the termination of pregnancy of the petitioner. [Geeta Devi v. State o f H.P., 2017 SCC OnLine HP 1574, order dated 17.10.2017]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar, JJ  allowed a 13-year-old rape survivor to terminate her 32-week-old pregnancy after considering the medical report filed by the board of doctors of J J hospital Mumbai constituted by the Court.

The Mumbai-based rape survivor, a student of class seven had sought permission to abort the foetus. The Court directed the hospital authorities to terminate her pregnancy on September 8, 2017.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act prohibits abortion of a foetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of SA Bobde and L Nageswara Rao, JJ allowed a 26-year-old woman, who is in 25th week of pregnancy, to terminate her pregnancy after her fetus was diagnosed with Anencephaly, a defect that leaves foetal skull bones unformed and is both untreatable and certain to cause the infant’s death during or shortly after birth. The medical board’s report said that the condition of the foetus was also dangerous for the mother’s life.

Noticing that the fetus is without a skull and would, therefore, not be in a position to survive, the Medical Board said that the continuation of pregnancy can pose severe mental injury to the petitioner and no additional risk to the petitioner’s life is involved if she is allowed to undergo termination of her pregnancy. The Court, hence, said that it was in the interests of justice and particularly, to permit the petitioner to undergo medical termination of her pregnancy under the provisions of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. [Mamta Verma v. UOI, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.627 OF 2017, decided on 09.08.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Acting upon the report of the Medical Board at KEM Hospital and Medical College, Mumbai, constituted to medically examine the petitioner, a rape survivor, the Court said that that the risk to the petitioner of continuation of her pregnancy, can gravely endanger her physical and mental health. The Court, hence, made an exception and held that it is permissible to allow the petitioner to abort the 24 week-old foetus in terms of Section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. As per Section 5 of the Act, the termination of pregnancy, which is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, is permissible.

On 22.07.2016, the bench comprising of JS Khehar and Arun Mishra, JJ. had directed the Maharashtra Government to set up a medical board to examine the rape survivor who sought permission to terminate her 24 week old foetus and the medical examination was directed to be conducted on 23.07.2016. The Medical Board had advised against the continuation of pregnancy and had noticed that in view of severe multiple congenital anomalies, the fetus is not compatible with extra-uterine life and that the pregnancy might endanger the health of the petitioner. [Ms. X. v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 745, decided on 25.07.2016]