The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the Gujarat High Court over the manner in which it passed an order in the plea of a rape victim seeking termination of her pregnancy. The high court passed an order on Saturday seemingly attempting to clarifying its earlier verdict while the apex court was hearing the petition in the same case.
“We do not appreciate the high court's counterblast to the Supreme Court's orders. What is happening in the High Court of Gujarat? Do judges reply like this to a superior court's order? We do not appreciate this. These kinds of attempts are being made by High Court judges to circumvent something we have said, like this. There is no need for any judge of the High Court to justify its order,” said Justice B.V. Nagarathna.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat government, said Saturday's order was passed only to fix a "clerical error".
"There was a clerical error in the previous order and that was fixed on Saturday. It was a misunderstanding," he said.
Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, however, said judges do not have to justify their orders by passing a subsequent order
The top court allowed the rape survivor to undergo medical termination of her over 27-week pregnancy while observing that pregnancy outside marriage is injurious and a cause of stress.
Justices Nagarathna and Bhuyan said the Gujarat High Court was not right in rejecting the prayer for termination of pregnancy.
“Pregnancy outside marriage is injurious, particularly in cases of sexual assault or abuse and is a cause of stress and trauma affecting the physical and mental health of pregnant women. Sexual assault of a woman is itself distressing and sexual abuse resulting in pregnancy compounds the injury. This is because such a pregnancy is not voluntary or mindful,” said the court.
The apex court said if the foetus is found to be alive, the hospital shall give all necessary assistance, including incubation to ensure the foetus survives.
In a special sitting on Saturday, the apex court had expressed displeasure over the high court adjourning the survivor's plea, and said "valuable time" has been lost during the pendency of the matter.
Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, the upper limit for the termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, special categories including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as the differently-abled and minors.