The Gujarat High Court recently while dealing with a Criminal Application seeking the termination of pregnancy of an 11-year-old girl, raped by her father, in its order made reference to the 'Durga Saptashati' to underscore the significance of studying the role and status of women within civilization as a means of comprehending its essence and consequently granted approval for the medical termination of the pregnancy for the minor rape survivor.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Samir J. Dave stated, "It is said that one of the best ways to understand the spirit of a civilization is to study the history about the position and status of women in it. The earliest materials found by archaeological excavations dating back to ancient India suggests about the worship of goddesses. “Durga Saptashati”, also known as “Devi Mahatmya”, is one of the earliest extant complete manuscripts from the Hindu traditions, which describes reverence and worship of the feminine aspect of God."

Advocate Poonam M Maheta appeared for the minor rape victim while the State was represented by the Public Prosecutor.

The Court further elaborated the manuscript noting, "The text is believed to be both a culmination of centuries of Indian ideas about the divine feminine as well as a foundation for the literature and spirituality focused on the feminine transcendence in centuries that followed. One of the verses of the Text reads thus: स्त्रिया: समस्ता: सकला जगत्सु [Shri Durga Saptashati Vol.11-6] जगत्की समस्त स्त्रियां तुम्हारा ही स्वरूप हैं।"

The minor rape survivor, having 26-28 weeks of viable pregnancy, had moved to the High Court seeking medical termination and the tissues drawn from the fetus for DNA identification to the Police Inspector. The High Court after perusing the medical report of the minor noted that during the Psychiatrist interview and evaluation, it was found that the victim is under stress due to unwanted catastrophic events and pregnancy.

The Court was further told by the medical examiner that the victim's mother feels continuation of pregnancy will be stressful and embarrassing for her and their family and will impact the patient’s mental health.

Noting the submissions made and the medical report, the High Court ordered, "There is no higher insult to a woman than trying to touch her dignity. In this case, it is very shocking and painful that the victim herein, who is a 11 year 09 months old girl child, has been subjected to a heinous crime by none else but her own father. Without entering into the criminality of the act committed by the accused in this case, this Court deems it appropriate to order medical termination of pregnancy of the victim herein at the earliest possible time considering the medical report of the victim and the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act."

Accordingly, the Court directed the Respondents to take necessary steps for undertaking the procedure of medical termination of pregnancy of the applicant-victim girl at the earliest possible time for preservation of 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.

Also, considering the tender age of the victim and the fact that the victim has to undergo strenuous mental/physical agony, the Judge directed the State of Gujarat to pay an amount of Rs.2,50,000/- (Rupees Two lacs fifty thousand only) by way of compensation to the applicant-victim.

Cause Title: XYZ v. State Of Gujarat [R/SPECIAL CRIMINAL APPLICATION NO. 11637 of 2023]

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