Economic Backwardness Can't Compel Court To Grant Permission- Kerala HC Disallows Medical Termination Of 28-Weeks Pregnancy
The Kerala High Court while rejecting the Writ Petition of a 21-year-old woman seeking permission for medical termination of her 28-week pregnancy held that economic backwardness or social stigma cannot compel the Court to transgress the statutory prohibition and grant permission for the same.
A Single Judge Bench of Justice V.G. Arun held –
"As far as the instant case is concerned, the Medical Board has categorically opined that the pregnancy is of 28 weeks duration with no foetal or maternal complications. In the absence of any medical reasons referable to the petitioner or the foetus, economic backwardness or possibility of social stigma cannot compel this Court to transgress the statutory prohibition and grant permission for medical termination of pregnancy."
Advocate Raj Carolin appeared for the petitioner while Secretary to the Government represented the State of Kerala.
Facts of the Case –
An unmarried woman i.e., the petitioner was in love with a person named Sanjay and was in a live-in relationship with him from November 17, 2021, onwards. She admitted that the pregnancy was from a consensual sexual relationship with Sanjay. As per the petitioner, she had sex with Sanjay believing his promise to convert to Islam and marry her. But he refused to marry her unless his demand for dowry was met. He used to assault her and she was finally driven out of his house on September 27, 2022. From that day onwards, the relationship between the petitioner and her partner was broken down.
The petitioner underwent a radio diagnosis on August 19, 2022, which revealed that the gestational age of the foetus is 18 weeks and one day. The petitioner stated that her family is economically backward and the birth of a child prior to her marriage will adversely affect her future as well as the dignity of the family. Hence, the petitioner decided to terminate the pregnancy and for that purpose, approached medical practitioners but the doctors were not willing to conduct the surgery in the absence of a direction from the Court. Therefore, the petitioner filed a petition before the High Court for seeking permission for the medical termination of her pregnancy.
When the writ petition came up for admission, the Superintendent of SAT Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram was directed to constitute a Medical Board for examining the petitioner. The Medical Board after an examination revealed that the petitioner was taking good care of her pregnancy with regular ANC. The ultrasound findings showed an uncomplicated singleton live pregnancy of 28 weeks duration with no foetal or maternal complications. Hence, the Medical Board also opined against medical termination of pregnancy considering the risk involved for the baby.
The High Court while considering the above fact relied upon the case of Suchita Srivastava and another v. Chandigarh Administration (2009) 9 SCC 1 and noted –
"The medical evidence is definitely against grant of permission for termination of pregnancy. No doubt, the Apex Court has declared a woman's right to make reproductive choice, to be a dimension of her personal liberty."
The question before the Court was whether such liberty can transgress the restrictions/ prohibition under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 in cases where neither the pregnant lady nor the foetus has any medical issues and the pregnancy was being taken good care of by the prospective mother until she approached the Court. The Court in this context observed –
"… after the amendment, medical termination is not permissible when the pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks. As per Section 3(2B), the provision relating to the length of pregnancy will not apply when the termination is necessitated by the diagnosis of any of the substantial foetal abnormalities by a Medical Board."
Accordingly, the Court dismissed the writ petition.
Cause Title – Ramsiyamol R S v. State of Kerala