When the State empowers its women

Justice delayed is justice denied. A minor victim of rape sought termination of pregnancy within time but the matter was unnecessarily delayed due to red-tapism and systemic indifference. This delay frustrated the victims’ right to terminate the pregnancy. The State in its capacity as a protector of the rights of its women endeavored to protect the fundamental rights of possible victims by approaching the High Court and seeking its indulgence in securing the rights of women.

A woman’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity including reproductive choice is a fundamental right enshrined Article 21 of the Constitution. The bench comprising of Justice Mehta and Justice Bhati of the Rajasthan High Court have upheld these rights and have prescribed guidelines to be followed in situations where rape victim seeks medical termination of pregnancy.

The High Court condemning the delays has laid down progressive guidelines that limit police intervention, apprise victim about her rights and make disposal of application for termination time bound.

In order to sensitize the victim about her rights and laws the High Court directs that a Medical Office or station house officer of the concerned police station shall forward a report to the Secretary of the District Legal Service Authority who shall immediately along with a woman counselor approach the victim and sensitize her and her guardians about the MTP Act. Such sensitization shall enable the victim to make an informed decision about her actions or inactions about the termination.

If the woman chooses to opt for termination within the stipulated time of 20 weeks of her pregnancy as provided under the MTP Act, the High Court has directed that the concerned court shall dispose of the application within three dates from such filing. Time bound disposal of the application will ensure that the termination remains uncomplicated, inexpensive and the victims’ health is not at risk.

Lastly the High Court directed that the identity of the victim shall be protected by all those involved in helping the victim and also directed the State to frame suitable guidelines.

The judiciary has been the bastion of hope and has continuously been securing women’s position in the society and their fundamental rights and with these guidelines has once again secured the same.

Published by Pushkar Taimni

Pushkar Taimni is a lawyer with a pan India practice based out of Jodhpur, Rajasthan. He can be contacted at taimnico@gmail.com.

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