Delhi HC issues guidelines for all IOs in rape cases exceeding 24 weeks pregnancy

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The single-judge bench said that a woman has the right to say "yes" or "no" to becoming a mother, and denying MTP to a sexual assault victim amounts to denying the right to live with dignity.

The Delhi High Court last week issued guidelines to be followed by the investigation officers (IOs) in cases where the pregnancy of rape and sexual assault survivors exceeds 24 weeks.

The court was hearing a 14-year-old rape survivor’s plea seeking directions to end her 25-week-old pregnancy. She belonged to a family of construction workers and was sexually assaulted while her mother was out for work.

A bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed, “In the case of sexual assault, denying a woman right to say no to medical termination of pregnancy and fasten her with the responsibility of motherhood would amount to denying her human right to live with dignity as she has a right in relation to her body which includes saying Yes or No to being a mother. Section 3(2) of the MTP Act reiterates the right of a woman.”

“One will shudder to think what a victim who is carrying such a fetus in her womb must be going through each day, being reminded constantly of the sexual assault that she has undergone. Cases, where sexual assault results in the pregnancy of the victim are even more traumatic as the shadow of such a tragic moment, lingers on each day with the victim”, the court said.

On interaction with the victim and her mother, the single-judge bench said that "the Judicial Conscience is also to ensure that the victim child is relieved of the trauma of an unwanted sexual assault-created pregnancy and can lead a meaningful life that is not limited by her poverty".

Furthermore, the court said that the fact that the victim girl was unable to obtain an education despite her desire to attend a school led to the conclusion that the services provided by various Government Schemes are unknown to the vast majority of people who could benefit from them. The single-judge bench directed the Secretary, DSLSA, to develop an outline of a program for such workers in the city through its secretaries in all districts of Delhi at construction sites, so that such workers are aware of their right to an education.

“The students of law colleges and other colleges under their program of SUPW can arrange some programmes at construction sites; the students can volunteer for such purpose and can educate them about their educational rights and may pass their creative skills as well as basic education to them”, the court said.

The single-judge bench also issued the following guidelines to be followed by the investigation officers in rape cases where pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks:

  • A “Urine Pregnancy Test” will be mandatory during the medical examination of a victim of sexual assault.
  • When a victim is discovered to be pregnant as a result of sexual assault, and if the victim is a minor, she gives her consent and expresses her desire for medical termination of pregnancy, the investigating officer will ensure that the victim is brought before the Medical Board on the same day in following four hospitals in Delhi: (i) All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi,(ii) Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi, (iii) Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, and (iv) Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Hospital, New Delhi.
  • If a minor victim of sexual assault is pregnant, she will be brought before the Board with the consent of her legal guardian and the desire of such legal guardian to terminate the pregnancy.
  • If a minor victim is examined by such a Board, an appropriate report will be filed with the appropriate authorities, so that if an order for termination of pregnancy is sought from the Courts, the Court concerned does not waste any time and can pass an order on the same expeditiously.

The court noted that Sections 3(2C) and 3(2D) of the MTP Act require the State Government or Union Territory to ensure that Medical Boards are established in hospitals. Thus, the court directed the State Government/Union Territory to ensure that the mandate of Section 3(2C) and 3(2D) of the MTP Act, are complied with and such Boards are constituted in all Government Hospitals which have proper MTP Centres and also directed that it should be mandatory to have such Boards constituted before-hand.

“The Ministry of Health Affairs, Government of NCT of Delhi, and Union Ministry for Health Affairs will share the compliance of the aforesaid guidelines/directions with this Court within two months”, the court said.

Case Title: Minor R Thr Mother H v. State NCT of Delhi & Anr.