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Can rape-pregnancy be ended without consent of retarded girl?

J. Venkatesan

Supreme Court to hear SLP against Punjab and Haryana High Court order

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will decide on Tuesday whether the pregnancy of a mentally retarded girl caused by rape could be terminated against her express consent. The 18-year-old is staying in a home for the mentally challenged in Chandigarh.

A Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam is confronted with this human rights issue in a special leave petition against an interim order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court for immediate termination of the pregnancy. The Bench issued notice to the Chandigarh administration, on whose petition the July 17 order was passed.

Advocate Tanu Bedi, who assisted the High Court as amicus curiae, and Shuchita Shrivastava filed the SLP.

Ms. Bedi argued that doctors did not form the opinion that termination of pregnancy was in the best interests of the girl, and that the medical report suggested that she required support and supervision to help her raise the child. The girl had expressed an unambiguous and unequivocal desire to keep the child.

Counsel argued that termination of pregnancy against the mother’s wish was against the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, and the Rights of the Disabled.

Ms. Bedi said India was a party to international conventions that uphold and preserve the rights of the disabled, which had been given the go-by in the impugned order. “We have to respect the girl’s right to life”, she said, and pleaded for a stay on the order.

“What you say is right if she is not a mentally retarded person,” Chief Justice Balakrishnan told Ms. Bedi. “We are worried about her future also because she is an orphan. No NGO is going to look after her. It is a difficult decision for us.”

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for a social worker in favour of abortion, cited medical reports and said the continuation of pregnancy could result in complications, considering the girl’s age, mental status, and previous surgery. He said she was not aware that there was a child inside her, and hence could not mother a child.

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