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'Lost Valuable Time': SC Unhappy Over Gujarat HC Dismissing Rape Survivor's Abortion Plea

The Supreme Court expressed astonishment at the Gujarat HC's decision to delay the matter for 12 days.
Supreme Court

Image courtesy: PTI

Delhi: The Supreme Court held a special session on Saturday to address the urgent plea of a rape victim seeking permission for abortion as her pregnancy approached the 28-week mark. Her desperate plea followed the Gujarat High Court's refusal to grant her relief. 

The panel presiding over this matter included Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan, and they convened the special session at 10:30 AM.

Advocate Shashank Singh, representing the petitioner, conveyed that a medical board had recommended the termination of the pregnancy. However, the High Court dismissed the request for an abortion. He said the high court had on August 8 issued a direction for the constitution of a medical board to ascertain the status of pregnancy as well as the health status of the petitioner. The report was submitted on August 10 by the medical college, where she was examined.

The top court noted that the report was taken on record by the high court on August 11, but "strangely", the matter was listed 12 days later i.e. on August 23 "losing sight of the fact that every day's delay was crucial and of great significance having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case".

The bench also noted that the petitioner's counsel has brought to its notice that the case status of the matter showed that the petition was rejected on August 17 by the high court but no reasons were dictated in the court and the order is yet to be uploaded on the high court's website.

The Supreme Court expressed astonishment at the Gujarat High Court's decision to delay the matter for 12 days. 

As per a report in the LiveLaw, Justice Nagarathna, clearly dismayed, said, "How can the Court postpone it until August 23? How many critical days will be lost by then?" 

The petitioner's counsel went on to inform the Court that the case was indeed listed before the High Court on August 17, and on this day, the petition was dismissed. However, the dismissal order had not yet been uploaded. In response, the Court directed the Secretary General of the Supreme Court to check with the Gujarat High Court Registry regarding the status of the order. 

Justice Nagarathna expressed frustration, saying, "We will wait for the order. How can we proceed without it? In cases like this, urgency is paramount. It cannot be treated casually as if it were a routine matter. We regret having to make such remarks."

The bench also asked about the report filed by the medical board before the high court. The petitioner's counsel said as per the report, the termination of pregnancy can be done.  

The bench issued orders for a fresh medical examination of the petitioner, instructing her to undergo the examination at the hospital again on the same day. The medical report must be submitted to the Supreme Court by the following day. The bench scheduled another hearing for Monday as the first item on the agenda. Advocate Swati Ghildiyal accepted the notice on behalf of the State of Gujarat.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, the upper limit for the termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, special categories including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as the differently-abled and minors. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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