The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently allowed a Medical Termination of the Pregnancy of a 26-year-old lady carrying a pregnancy of 16 weeks on the ground that there was a change in the woman’s marital circumstances during the ongoing pregnancy as she had lodged a criminal case against her husband and the differences raised between the couple were now irreconcilable.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Subodh Abhyankar noted that "In such facts and circumstances of the case, considering the fact that the petitioner has already filed an FIR against her husband as aforesaid, and also relying upon the decision rendered by the Supreme Court, this Court finds it expedient to allow this petition and permit the petitioner to have her pregnancy medically terminated."

The lady had approached the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution for termination of her pregnancy on the ground that she has already lodged an FIR against her husband under Section 498-A, 294, 323 of I.P.C. and Section 3/4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, alleging demand of dowry and assault by her husband. At the time of lodging of the said FIR, the petitioner was already carrying a pregnancy of 16 weeks. The lady sought the termination on the ground that she cannot continue with her marriage anymore and wanted to terminate her pregnancy which is well below 24 weeks as provided under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

Appearing for the Petitioner Advocate Akash Sharma relied on the case of the Supreme Court in X Vs. Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi and others reported as AIR 2022 SC 4917 and submitted that it has already laid down that a woman is entitled to get her pregnancy terminated on account of a change in woman’s marital circumstances during the ongoing pregnancy.

it was also submitted that in the aforesaid decision, the Supreme Court has also taken note of the situation when a woman separates from or divorces her partner and that in the present matter since the difference between the petitioner and her husband are irreconcilable, and she has already lodged a criminal case against her husband, if she continues with the pregnancy, it would have extreme adverse impact on her physical and mental health. On the other hand, appearing for the Respondents, Government Advocate Vaibhav Bhagwat submitted that appropriate orders be passed.

Considering the submissions made, the High Court noted that the Supreme Court in the X Vs. Principal Secretary case had observed that "Rule 3B(c) states that a change in the marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce) renders women eligible for termination of their pregnancy under Section 3(2)(b). The impact of the continuance of an unwanted pregnancy on a woman’s physical or mental health should take into consideration various social, economic, and cultural factors operating in her actual or reasonably foreseeable environment, as provided in Section 3(3). The rationale behind Rule 3B(c) is comparable to the rationale for Rule 3B(g) i.e., a change in a woman’s material (sic) circumstances during the ongoing pregnancy"

The Bench further relied on another decision of the Kerala High Court where in the case of X Vs. Union of India and others passed in W.P.(C) No.29402 of 2022(A) dated 26/09/2022, it was noted that even in the MTP Act, there is no provision that before medical termination of pregnancy is taken up by a woman, it is necessary for her to obtain her husband’s permission.

Accordingly, finding expedient to allow the petition, the Court directed the Superintendent, M.Y. Hospital, Indore to do the needful and medically terminate the pregnancy of the petitioner at the earliest.

Cause Title: Palak Khanna v. The State Of Madhya Pradesh Department Of Health And Family Welfare

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