NEW DELHI: Can the family members of a rape victim be asked to give consent for termination of her pregnancy or should it be left to her alone?
This question will be deliberated threadbare by the Supreme Court tomorrow, which is dealing with a case of a 35- year-old HIV-positive destitute woman, who was raped on the streets of Patna and is 26 weeks pregnant.
The apex court today wanted to know why the Patna High Court and Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) had sought the consent of her father and husband when the victim herself was against going ahead with the pregnancy keeping in mind that there was no family support to her.
She was deserted by the husband, while her parents had refused to accept her for reasons including alleging that she was of an unstable mind.
As the matter came up for hearing, a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar was informed about these facts by her counsel.
The submission evoked sharp reaction from the bench which said "in the unfortunate circumstance, when a woman is raped and she is pregnant, her dignity to life is affected."
"How can her brother, father or husband be asked to give a consent? It is she who will mother the child," the bench said, while posting the matter for hearing tomorrow.
The issue arose after victim's advocate Vrinda Grover told the bench that the woman deserved compensation from the Bihar Government as she had gone to PMCH for terminating her pregnancy when she was in her 17th week of pregnancy.
"She had said that she would terminate her pregnancy. The hospital asked for the consent of the father which he gave, though it was not required under the law," she said.
To this, the bench asked Additional Solicitor Generals Tushar Mehta and P S Narsimha, "how is the father's consent required?"
Mehta said it was not required in this case.
Grover also said when the woman had approached the high court, it had also asked her father and husband for consent.
Due to paucity of time, the bench said it would hear the matter tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the medical board of AIIMS, which was asked by the apex court to examine the woman, gave its report and said that she was in her advanced stage of pregnancy.
The apex court had earlier said it would not go into the orders of the high court which had held that the medical board's report has stated that it would be unsafe for the life of the petitioner and there was a compelling responsibility of the state to keep the child alive.
The high court had said the woman's pregnancy had crossed the legal embargo of 20 weeks under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
Grover had said the high court had failed to appreciate that the woman was 35 years of age and completely fit to make her own reproductive choices without any interference.
In her plea, the woman said she was a destitute and had come to know about her pregnancy for the first time around the 13th week, and that too after she was rescued by Shanti Kutir, a Women's Rehabilitation Centre, and taken a pregnancy test on January 26.
The woman said she had expressed her desire to terminate her pregnancy on March 4 to a research officer of Koshish, a Field Action Project of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, with whom she was in contact.
However, it was only after she revealed to the superintendent of the shelter home that the pregnancy was the outcome of rape, she made attempts to have it terminated at the hospital on March 14.
According to the plea, the hospital refused to admit the woman owing to lack of identity proof.