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Supreme Court seeks Central response on plea to set up medical board in all districts to protect rape victims’ rights

The court was hearing the plea by a 14-year-old rape victim seeking permission to terminate her 26-week-old pregnancy.

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s response on a petitioner’s prayer for the constitution of a medical board in all districts of the country to protect and deal with rape victims.

Chief Justice S.A. Bobde suggested to the Union Government to develop a mechanism and establish any authority to help and redress the suffering of the rape victim who gets pregnant.

The court was hearing the plea by a 14-year-old rape victim seeking permission to terminate her 26-week-old pregnancy. The petitioner belongs to Haryana and was raped by her cousin leading to an unwanted pregnancy.

During the hearing today, the petitioner’s counsel told the court that she does not want to press the prayer to terminate her pregnancy.

Petitioner counsel Biju submitted that I was well aware of the contents of the medical report. When I was drafting this petition I saw the unfortunate pain to the parents. Therefore, I added my second prayer. It is extremely serious that so many children are subject to rape.

The bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice A.S. Bopanna said, “We will issue notice on the second prayer and record the prayer which was not pressed by the petitioner. The petitioner contends that the situation in the present case needs to be dealt with sensitivity and care and for that case issuing notice to the Centre.”

The CJI asked the ASG Senior Advocate Aishwarya Bhati appearing for the Centre that it will be helpful if there is some board for consultation of the victim. It is a different case when rape was not reported. If it was reported, then there can be some board where the victim may seek guidance. “A girl who is raped must be told about the law and the options for her legal right. It’s a very narrow compass, see what can be done,” said the CJI.

The ASG said we place our affidavit. Even the union cabinet has passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) (Amendment) Bill, 2020. It will be placed before the Rajya Sabha.

The CJI asked, What is the time limit for medical termination under that?

ASG Bhati replied, the amended time period for termination of pregnancy is 25 weeks, and if the medical board permits the pregnant woman in case of genetic deformity of the child in the womb then the time period can even be extended for a longer period.

The court has directed the Centre to file reply in two weeks.

The Court had previously directed to constitute the medical board in Karnal and directed the state of Haryana to submit the report in a sealed cover by March 8.

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