MP HC Criticizes Police and Doctor for Not Informing Minor Rape Victim of Her ‘Right to Terminate Pregnancy,’ Violating Her ‘Right to Live With Dignity’

In a significant ruling, the Madhya Pradesh High Court, presided over by Justice Subodh Abhyankar, has criticized the police and medical authorities for failing to inform a minor rape victim and her family about her legal right to terminate the pregnancy. The court’s decision came in response to Writ Petition No. 9585 of 2024, filed by the victim’s father, seeking medical termination of his daughter’s pregnancy.

Background of the Case

The petitioner, represented by Advocate Shri Lucky Bijolia, approached the court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, seeking permission for the medical termination of his minor daughter’s pregnancy, which resulted from a rape. The victim, who was abducted on January 28, 2024, and recovered on March 1, 2024, was found to be pregnant during her medical examination on the day of her recovery. Despite this, the writ petition was filed only on April 8, 2024, after a delay of more than a month.

Important Legal Issues Involved

The court identified several critical legal issues in this case:

1. Failure to Inform About Pregnancy and Legal Rights: The court noted that neither the treating doctor nor the Station House Officer (SHO) of the police station informed the victim’s family about the pregnancy or their legal right to terminate it under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

2. Right to Live with Dignity: The court emphasized that the failure to inform the victim and her family about the option to terminate the pregnancy infringed upon the victim’s right to live with dignity, as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

3. Duty of Care by Authorities: The court highlighted the duty of care that investigating officers and medical practitioners owe to victims of rape, particularly minors, to inform them of their rights under the MTP Act.

Court’s Decision and Observations

In its order, the court made several important observations and directives:

1. Criticism of Authorities: The court criticized the apathetic conduct of the investigating officer and the treating doctor, stating that it was their duty to inform the victim’s family about the pregnancy and the option to terminate it. The court described this failure as “deplorable.”

2. Directive for Future Cases: To prevent similar situations in the future, the court directed that in all cases of rape where the victim is found to be pregnant, the police and treating doctors must immediately inform the victim and her family about their right to terminate the pregnancy under the MTP Act. This information must be provided in writing.

3. Contempt of Court: The court warned that any non-compliance with this directive would be treated as contempt of court.

4. Order for Termination: The court had previously directed the medical team to terminate the pregnancy once the victim’s hemoglobin levels were normalized. The termination was successfully carried out on April 17, 2024.

Key Quotes from the Judgement

Justice Subodh Abhyankar made several key observations in the judgement:

– “Non-disclosure of such information to the victim infringes upon her right to live with dignity as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

– “It becomes the duty of the Investigating Officer as also the treating doctor to apprise such persons who are the victim of an offence of rape that they have a right to terminate the pregnancy of the victim/prosecutrix before 22 weeks.”

– “The aforesaid apathetic conduct adopted by the Investigating Officer as also by the treating doctor is deplorable.”

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Parties and Legal Representation

– Petitioner: Father of the minor rape victim, represented by Advocate Shri Lucky Bijolia.

– Respondents: The State of Madhya Pradesh, represented by Ms. Harshlata Soni and Ms. Geetanjali Chaurasia, Government Advocates.

Case Number

– Writ Petition No. 9585 of 2024

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