SC Refuses To Consider PIL Challenging Provision Of MTP Act That Allows Gynecologists To Assess Mental Health For Pregnancy Termination
The Supreme Court, on Friday, refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation challenging the validity of Explanation-I of Section 3 (2) of the Medical Termination Of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021 which permits a medical practitioner specialized in gynaecology and obstetrics, who is not necessarily a Psychiatrist, to assess the mental well-being of a pregnant woman and subsequently authorizing pregnancy termination.
The Bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra, at the outset, remarked, "Go to the High Court and anyway, you are challenging the provision of Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act on the ground that these protections should not be given to women?" In response, the Petitioner stated, "In certain instances, milords. Our main argument revolves around the incapability of a registered medical practitioner, particularly a gynaecologist, to assess the medical situation."
Expanding on this, the Chief Justice inquired, "What locus do you have? How are you affected?". The CJI also expressed, "Parliament has made some provisions in the interest of women and somebody just now wants to challenge it"
Consequently, upon the Petitioner's request to be allowed to approach the High Court, the Bench ordered, "Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner seeks to withdraw the Petition to enable the petitioner to move the competent High Court. The Petition is dismissed as withdrawn."
In the PIL filed by a registered society, the Society for Protection of Unborn Child, through the Advocate Sanchar Anand and AoR Devendra Singh it was submitted to the Court that for the purposes of carrying out the termination of pregnancy under Section 3 of the MTP Act, the mental health evaluation of pregnant women should only be carried by a registered medical practitioner who is a "Psychiatrist" and not a "Gynecologist" and to that extent section 3 of the MTP Act and the rules made thereunder are liable to be set aside.
"Gyneaclosgit is allowed to terminate a pregnancy by drawing a presumption that, the anguish caused by a pregnancy which has been caused by failure of a devise or method used by any woman or her partner for the purpose of limiting the number of children or preventing pregnancy, may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman, but, it is the submission of the petitioner that such Registered medical Practioner, who is qualified and trained in gynaecology and obstetrics, is not at all qualified and trained in Psychiatrist, alone is qualified to evaluate the mental health of pregnant women so as to assess and form a definite clinical/medical opinion that such women are actually undergoing "anguish" or not and if yes, then whether such "anguish" is of such a magnitude that it is causing a "grave injury" to her "mental health", to such an extent that it actually necessitates termination of pregnancy", read the PIL.
The PIL further highlighted that except for the said presumption in explanation- I, there is no provision anywhere in the said Act that defines what constitutes grave injury to the physical or mental health of the women and in the absence of any definite boundaries or standards in the Act sweeping and wide powers have been given to Registered Medical Practitioners under Section 3 of the said Act, who are otherwise also neither capable nor trained to evaluate the mental health of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy by suo-moto drawing a presumption in that regard.
It has also been stated in the Petition that fetuses having a girl child are unscrupulously aborted by taking aid of Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, i.e. by declaring that such pregnancy has been caused by failure of a device or a method to control pregnancy and that continuance of such pregnancy would cause a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant women and thus in this manner "Female Feticide" is unabatedly continuing under the realm of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
"Termination of pregnancies, except where the continuance of the pregnancy is likely to cause, actual and grave physical or mental injury to the mother or child or where the child is likely to be born with serious physical or mental abnormality should not be allowed", prays the Petitioner.
On the aspect of the right to life of a foetus, the PIL said "Permitting abortion of an unborn child is not only violative of the Right to Life of such an unborn child but is also a crime against humanity as well as society at large and the same needs to be prevented considering the fact that the fetus is not only one of the weakest but also one of the most vulnerable and defenceless forms of living organism in the entire world and permitting unabatedly termination of pregnancies seriously infringes the fundamental Right to Life of the fetus".
Cause Title: Society For Protection Of Unborn Child v. Union Of India & Anr. [Diary No.11029/2022]