Delhi HC allows minor to terminate pregnancy after hospitals insist on police complaint

The Delhi High Court recently allowed a minor to terminate her pregnancy and directed the central government to ensure that the procedure was conducted at AIIMS, Delhi, at the government’s expense. The minor’s mother had filed a plea, seeking immediate termination of the pregnancy, and pointed out that hospitals had refused to do so without reporting the case to the local police.

A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad passed the order on September 20. The minor’s mother had sought immediate termination of the pregnancy through registered medical practitioners at any government hospital under provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act without reporting the case to the local police as mandated under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as the pregnancy was a result of a “consensual and close relationship”.

The court directed that the respondents are free to proceed ahead in accordance with the law, but any report, which is registered by the police, must be kept in a sealed cover and it will be subject to the final outcome of the petition.

In a previous hearing, the court had asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati to assist the court, looking at the sensitivity of the issue at hand. Bhati submitted that both Acts – MTP and POCSO – must be read “harmoniously” and that the “welfare of the minor girl is paramount”. Agreeing with Bhati, the court observed that instead of entering into the debate regarding harmonising between the MTP and POCSO Acts, it was necessary that the pregnancy of the minor girl was terminated immediately to prevent her from “undergoing the trauma of going ahead with an unwanted pregnancy which will inevitably subject her to grave physical and mental injury”.

Granting interim relief, the court directed the “Union of India to ensure that the pregnancy of the minor girl is terminated at AIIMS, Delhi on the government’s expenses”.

“This court is aware that the interim relief being granted amounts to the final relief that is being sought by way of the instant petition, however, in the facts of this case, this court is of the opinion that the termination of the pregnancy of the unmarried minor daughter of the petitioner needs to be conducted at the earliest so as to not render the instant petition infructuous,” the court said.

The petitioner found out on September 9 that her daughter is about 17 weeks and 5 days pregnant after undergoing an ultrasound and, consequently, she was referred to a civil hospital. “It is stated that all government and private hospitals refused to terminate the pregnancy of the daughter of the petitioner without reporting the case to the local police,” the court observed.

The girl’s mother had also prayed for an order directing the amendment of Section 3 of the MTP Act “so as to allow married/unmarried minor girls between 16 to 18 years to terminate their unwanted pregnancy arising from a consensual relationship without requiring to report the case to the local police as mandated under Section 19 (1) POCSO as the latter restricts and violates their fundamental right to privacy, personal autonomy, dignity and reproductive choice which are an inseparable part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India”.

Directing the respondents to file their replies, the matter has been listed for January 18, 2023.