A 20-year-old engineering student, who had moved the Supreme Court for permission to abort her nearly 30-week pregnancy, agreed on Thursday to give birth in AIIMS and put the baby up for adoption.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud perused a report by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, which had earlier been directed to explore the possibility of safe abortion of the foetus, and noted it was unsafe to terminate the pregnancy at such a later stage and that the woman was willing to give birth to the child.
Taking note of the sensitivity and confidentiality of the case, the bench, also comprising justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati and the counsel for the woman to come into the CJI’s chamber for deliberations to decide the fate of the unborn fetus and its future parents after birth, as the unmarried woman said she would not be able to look after the child.
Using its extra-ordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the bench said, “In terms of the request which is made before the court, the delivery of the child by the petitioner shall take place at AIIMS.”
“We request the director of AIIMS ensure that all necessary facilities are made available without the payment of fees, charges or expenses of any nature so that the delivery can take place in a safe environment at AIIMS,” it said.
The bench also directed AIIMS to ensure that the privacy of the young woman be maintained and all steps taken to ensure that her identity was not divulged during the course of the hospitalisation.
“Permission is granted for the adoption of the child by the prospective parents whose details have been set out in the CARA (Child Adoption Resource Authority) registration form. CARA shall take all necessary steps to facilitate the implementation of this order,” it ordered.
The CJI, in the order, said the court was adopting the present course of action consistent with its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution having regard to the extraordinary situation which has emerged before the court involving a young woman in distress, who approached it at a late stage of her pregnancy.
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The bench said having regard to the late stage of the pregnancy, it has been considered in the best interest of the mother and the fetus that the child, upon delivery, may be given up for adoption.
“The request for adoption has been suggested by the petitioner since she would not be in a position to care for the child,” it said.
The court noted the heart wrenching details of the woman and her family in its order. “The petitioner is about 20 years old. She is reported to have lost her father during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has a mother who is unwell. The petitioner also has a married sister who is about 10 years older than her,” it said.
Law officer Bhati told the court that she has also interacted with the sister of the woman to explore whether she would be willing to adopt the child.
“However, the sister expressed her inability to do so for a variety of reasons,” it noted.
The bench was told by the solicitor general that an effort has been made to facilitate the process of adoption of the child after delivery by the prospective parents, who are registered with the Child Adoption Resource Authority under the auspices of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
“The court is apprised of the fact that two prospective parents who have been registered with a parent registration number under CARA are ready and willing to adopt the child. In the interest of the privacy of the adopted parents, the parent registration number has not been referred to in the present order,” it said.
Earlier on January 24, the court had asked the director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, to constitute a team of doctors to examine whether termination of a 29-week pregnancy can be conducted safely.