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Delhi HC directs board to explain pros, cons of medical termination of pregnancy to rape victim in mother tongue

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has directed the Medical Board to explain the pros and cons of the medical termination of pregnancy to the rape victim and her guardian in their mother tongue, be it Hindi or English.

The high court stated that it was delaying a plea moved by a 16-year-old rape victim. She approached the court seeking medical termination of her pregnancy of 25 weeks.

The bench also directed that the communication so made and the consent -- whether affirmative or negative of the victim and her guardian -- be also obtained in her mother tongue, Hindi, on the medical examination report and be sent to the court.

"This court further orders that henceforth, in cases of medical termination of pregnancy in rape cases, the pros and cons of the medical termination of pregnancy will be explained in Hindi wherever the victim and her guardian in case of a minor victim understands Hindi, or English where they understand the said language, " Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said in an order on November 4.

The court observed that the explanation about the medical termination of pregnancy in the language spoken and understood by the victim and her guardian is of utmost importance.

"Every endeavour be made by the investigating officer and the Medical Board that the same is explained in the language spoken and understood by the victim and her guardian, " the court stated.

It added that medical termination of pregnancy involves mental and physical repercussions which may last for a lifetime and therefore, the procedure to be followed cannot be a routine or business-like exercise. The most vital strength in such cases can often come from the doctors who examine such victims and explain to them the pros and cons.

Justice Sharma said the court expects and hopes that the directions will be not only be followed in the letter but also in spirit which necessarily includes empathy, sensitivity and support that such victims require in abundance.

The bench directed to forward a copy of the order to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of NCT of Delhi, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of India, for ensuring circulation of aforesaid directions and necessary compliance.

On November 3, the court had directed the Medical Board constituted at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi, to examine the child victim on Saturday at 10 am.

However, during an urgent hearing, the victim stated that she was in fear of losing her life in the process of medical termination of pregnancy, as the doctors had explained the danger to her life in the event of such a procedure.

However, after an interaction, she stated that she wanted the pregnancy to be medically terminated.

Thereafter, the court directed the victim to be produced before the Medical Superintendent and the Medical Board at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi.

The court said the Medical Board would again explain to her the pros and cons of medical termination of pregnancy.

The court noted that the medical report does not mention that they had told the victim that she would lose her life, therefore, it seems that there is some miscommunication.

It observed that the Medical Board had opined that medical termination of pregnancy is possible and the victim is mentally fit to make a decision.

"Let the Medical Board seek her opinion once again and in case she again states that she does not want medical termination of pregnancy and wants to continue with it, she be produced before this Court on 06.11.2023 at 3:00 PM," the court stated in its order on November 4.

In case she and her parents agree to a medical termination of pregnancy and the Medical Board finds it a fit case for the same, the procedure could be conducted on the same day, it added. (ANI)

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