India: Court allows 16-year-old to terminate pregnancy after hospitals' refusal over no police complaint

The government and private hospitals had earlier refused to terminate the pregnancy since the family of the teenager was unwilling to report the case to the police.

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

Allowing a woman's prayer for immediate termination of the pregnancy of her minor daughter, the Delhi High Court has directed the Centre to ensure that the procedure is done at the national capital's All India Institute of Medical Science on government expenses.

The government and private hospitals had earlier refused to terminate the pregnancy since the family of the teenager was unwilling to report the case to the police.

Section 19 of India's Protection Of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO Act) makes it mandatory for any person apprehending an offence under the Act is likely to be committed or has knowledge about the same, o report such incident to a Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police. The medical practitioners also are obliged under law to file a report regarding the pregnancy.

The court on September 16 had requested Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati to appear in the matter and assist the court. On September 20, Bhati argued the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and POCSO Act must be read harmoniously and that the welfare of the minor girl is paramount.

A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad in the interim order released on Thursday said:

"This Court is in complete agreement with the submission of Ms. Bhati that instead of entering into the debate regarding harmonizing between the MTP Act and the POCSO Act, at this juncture, it is necessary that the pregnancy of the Petitioner's daughter is terminated immediately so as to prevent the Petitioner's daughter, who is a minor, from undergoing the trauma of going ahead with an unwanted pregnancy which will inevitably subject her to grave physical and mental injury".

The minor's mother in the petition before the court had urged that the termination of pregnancy be allowed without reporting the matter to the police - as mandated under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 - on account of the fact that her daughter became pregnant as a result of a "consensual and close relationship."

After the mother took the minor to a doctor on September 9, it was found that she was about 17 weeks and 5 days pregnant.

Granting interim relief, the Court said while the Centre and Delhi Government are free to proceed ahead in the matter as per law, however, any report registered by the police must be kept in a sealed cover. The same will be subject to the final outcome of the plea, added the court.

"This Court is aware that the interim relief being granted amounts to the final relief that is being sought by way of the instant petition, however, in the facts of this case, this Court is of the opinion that the termination of the pregnancy of the unmarried minor daughter of the Petition needs to be conducted at the earliest so as to not render the instant petition infructuous," it said.

The petitioner mother has also prayed that Section 19(1) of the POCSO Act be amended so as to allow married or unmarried minor girls between the age of 16 to 18 years to terminate their unwanted pregnancy arising from a consensual relationship without reporting the case to the local police.

It was argued that the provision restricts and violates the fundamental right to privacy, personal autonomy, dignity and reproductive choice of the minor girls under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.