The Delhi High Court on Friday ordered the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to form a panel consisting of experts to assess the medical condition of a woman who had knocked the doors of the court seeking Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP).
A division bench of the high court presided by Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan while slating the matter for hearing on Tuesday, asked the panel to examine the petitioner on Saturday so that a report regarding the same can be submitted before the court by Monday evening.
The high court directed the petitioner to reach AIIMS between 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in order to get examined. The directions were issued while the bench was hearing petition filed by the woman seeking MTP saying her mental health has been put to risk because of the 20 weeks’ time limit under the MTP Act.
During the course of hearing, advocate Sneha Mukherjee appearing for the petitioner informed the court that the abnormalities in foetus of the petitioner could be traced only after the 20th week of her pregnancy.
She also informed the bench that there were deformities in the heart and skull, which are co-morbidities attached to the main abnormalities.
Following these submissions, the bench asked AIIMS to state in the report regarding the condition of the foetus and whether it would be medically advisable and safe for the petitioner to terminate the pregnancy.
The plea also impugned the constitutional validity of section 5 of the MTP Act limited to the phrase “the termination of such pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman” on the ground that this clause is unduly restrictive and is arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
The petitioner alleged that she has suffered “immense mental and physical anguish” due to the said 20 weeks restriction under the MTP Act. “Petitioner’s physical and mental health has been put in serious risk because of the 20-week time limit in section 2(b) of the MTP Act,” the plea said.
The petition claimed that out of the 26 million births that occur in India every year, approximately 2-3 per cent of the foetuses have a severe congenital or chromosomal abnormality. Many suffer Intrauterine Fetal Death (IUFD) or are stillborn.
With new 3-D and 4-D sonographic technology, it is possible to detect certain abnormalities before 20 weeks, while other abnormalities can be detected only after 20 weeks, it added.
“Where women do not have access to adequate antenatal care during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, they lose the protection of the MTP Act. As a result, the MTP Act causes severe mental anguish and trauma to the mother’s mental health by forcing her to carry a foetus that will not survive,a the plea said.