The Bombay High Court Wednesday directed the dean of JJ Group of Hospitals here to constitute a panel of doctors to assess the mental health condition of a 20-year-old college student, who has approached the court seeking to terminate her pregnancy.
The petitioner is in 23rd week of pregnancy, which is a result of a “consensual” relationship.
She approached the high court saying though the foetus has no known abnormalities and the pregnancy doesn’t pose a threat to her physical well being, carrying the pregnancy to its full term will be detrimental to her mental health.
In her petition, filed through advocate Neha Philip, the woman submitted opinions of some private medical practitioners affirming she suffered from some mental health problems and that her mental condition was “fragile”.
The petitioner claimed she was also incapable of having given a coherent consent to such a relationship.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act prohibits termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks.
The Act permits abortion after consultation with one doctor up to 12 weeks. Between 12 to 20 weeks, medical opinion of two doctors is required for termination of pregnancy.
Beyond the 20-week, exceptions are legally permissible only if continuation of the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s health and life.
However, in the recent past, the Supreme Court and several high courts, including several benches of the Bombay High Court, have taken an expansive view of the definition of health and risks to the life of the woman as defined under the Act.
These courts have permitted termination of a pregnancy if it were likely to have an adverse effect on the woman.
Citing these judgements and the “young age” of the woman, the petitioner approached the high court seeking relief.
The bench, however, remained unimpressed with the argument and the petitioner’s submissions on her mental health condition.
The bench said the opinions of the private medical practitioners submitted by the petitioner “did not suggest” she was incapable of carrying the pregnancy to full term.
The court also expressed its displeasure at the increasing number of petitions in the high court seeking termination of pregnancy after the 20-week limit.
“This has become a business. We are going to start imposing cost on petitioners,” the bench observed.
The petitioner’s counsel, however, pointed out that every woman who approached the HC under the MTP Act did so in all earnestness.
Advocate Philip argued that such women were forced to approach the court since there was no provision under the existing law for one to seek relief beyond the 20-week limit.
The high court directed the Maharashtra government to submit the state-run JJ Hospital’ report by March 30.