The Supreme Court has offered some relief in the case of a 10-year-old rape victim who was denied permission to terminate the pregnancy resulting from sexual abuse by the district court in Chandigarh.
The court has ordered a full medical examination of the girl by the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh to ascertain the implications of carrying the pregnancy to term on the girl's as well as the baby's health, according to a Times of India report.
The SC has also directed the Chandigarh Legal Services Authority to ensure that its order is complied with and has asked it to submit the panel's report in a sealed envelope by Wednesday, July 26. The orders were issued after a Delhi-based lawyer, Alakh Alok Srivastava, approached the apex court on behalf of the girl and her family to allow the pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the repercussions on the girl's health if it was carried to term. A bench, comprising Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud, ordered the medical examination after hearing the plea.
The original plea for abortion was rejected because the child was 26 weeks pregnant, exceeding the 20-week legal ceiling for abortion.
The original plea for abortion was rejected on July 18 because the child was 26 weeks pregnant, far exceeding the 20-week legal ceiling for abortion, according to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971. Exceptions are made by the courts only in cases where doctors confirm that either the foetus has significant genetic abnormalities or if continuing the pregnancy poses a grave threat to the mother's life.
Srivastava petitioned the Supreme Court, claiming that multiple doctors were of the opinion that the child's pelvic bones weren't developed enough to handle a full-term pregnancy, Hindustan Times reported.
Gynaecologists from PGIMER and Government Medical College and Hospital are of the opinion that terminating a pregnancy at such an advanced stage might not be possible.
However, according to another Hindustan Times report, gynaecologists from PGIMER and Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Sector 32, are of the opinion that terminating a pregnancy at such an advanced stage might not be possible.
"The baby cannot be aborted. They can go to any apex court or any hospital. The child has crossed the time to abort the baby," HT quoted a senior gynaecologist from GMCH-32 as saying.
Another PGIMER gynaecologist told HT that the baby would have to be delivered via C-section, citing a previous case. "The mother is so fragile that she cannot bear the trauma of labour pain and natural delivery. (In the previous case) we could not let the 10-year-old undergo so much pain; so in that case we conducted elective C-section, wherein delivery was done even before the labour pain," she said.
Even so, following the SC's order, an eight-member panel of senior doctors which includes six department heads, was immediately constituted by the PGIMER to examine the girl, due to the time-sensitive nature of the case.
The 10-year-old girl underwent surgery for a hole in the heart, three years ago.
According to an Indian Express report, the little girl is unaware of her pregnancy — she only understands that she is a bit unwell and needs to rest at home. She undergoes daily 45-minute counselling sessions with two women counsellors from the Department of Social Welfare in her home in Chandigarh. The family stays in the servant quarters of the government official whose house the mother works at as a domestic worker. Her father is a watchman who is pursuing MBA through correspondence. The girl was allegedly repeatedly raped by her maternal uncle for over seven months.
The expert panel is headed by Dr Behera, the head of department of pulmonary medicine at PGIMER. The panel also includes the heads of the departments of obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatric medicine, psychiatry, radiodiagnosis, and internal medicine, along with a professor each from the departments of cardiology and hospital administration. A senior doctor from the cardiology department is part of the panel due to the girl's medical history — she underwent a surgery for a hole in the heart, three years ago, The Indian Express reported.
The petition also seeks that a permanent medical board be set up in each district to fast-track pleas for abortion, particularly those that involved child rape victims.
Once the findings of the medical examination are submitted to the court on Wednesday, July 26, the next hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday, July 28.
According to The Hindu, the petition filed by Srivastava also seeks that a permanent medical board be set up in each district to fast-track pleas for abortion in exceptional cases, particularly those that involve child rape victims. It seeks amendments to Section 3 of the MTP Act to permit the termination of pregnancies over 20 weeks, especially in cases of child rape victims.
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