NEW DELHI: Arguing for equal footing for unmarried women regarding provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP Act), a
bench on Friday found a chink in the Rule therein. It allowed a married woman to terminate her 20-24 week-old pregnancy if it resulted from failure of family planning device or protection to save her from mental agony, the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala said.
Last month, the same bench had gone beyond the law to allow an unwed woman from Manipur to terminate her more than 24-week-old pregnancy subject to safety certification from experts of the
All India Institute of Medical Sciences
"If we say mental agony as a ground would be available to all women irrespective of their marital status, then the Rule would no longer be restrictive. The legislature's intent is quite clear as they mention 'partner' in relation to pregnancy and not stipulate marriage as a validating point of pregnancy. If an unmarried girl becomes pregnant because of failure of a protective device, why should she be deprived of the benefits already given to certain categories of women? There is no logic for this as it deprives the women of their dignity and autonomy in making a choice on motherhood," the bench said.
While Section 3 of MTP Act travels beyond conventional relationships based on marriage, Rule 3B of the
does not envisage a situation involving unmarried women; it does recognise other categories of women such as divorcees, widows, minors, disabled and mentally ill, and survivors of sexual assault or rape.
Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati said the law allows every woman to terminate her unwanted pregnancy till 20 weeks and added that the legislature had taken a conscious view in consultation with experts to limit it to specified categories when the foetus is 20-24 weeks old.
The bench asked Bhati to make written submissions on this issue and posted the case for hearing on August 16.