Supreme Court criticizes casual approach by Gujarat High Court in rape survivor’s plea to terminate pregnancy

The Supreme Court, in a special Saturday sitting, objected to the Gujarat High Court’s handling of a case where a 26-week pregnant rape survivor sought termination of her pregnancy. [XYZ vs the State of Gujarat]

A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan noted that a lot of time had been lost with the High Court initially in adjourning the case.

” Why was the matter stood over to August 23? How can the Court say that report comes on August 10 and then listed 13 days later? How much valuable time was lost? … There has to be a sense of urgency in such cases and not have a lackadaisical attitude in these cases”, Justice NAgarathna remarked.

This aspect was reflected in the Supreme Court’s order as well.

” Strangely, the High Court listed the case 12 days later (after the medical report) on August 23, losing sight of the fact that every day, the delay was crucial and of great significance. We may say that in the instant case, the petitioner had sought termination of pregnancy, and she was 26 weeks pregnant when she approached the court. So. the valuable time was lost from August 8 to the next listing date,” the order said.

The top court sought the response of the Gujarat Government in the matter and ordered a fresh medical examination of the rape survivor, before posting the case for further hearing on Monday.

” Since valuable time is lost, a fresh report may be sought from the medical board, Bharuch. We direct the petitioner to appear before KMCRI hospital for being examined once again and the latest status report may be submitted before this court by Sunday evening 6 PM. The same shall be put up before this court on Monday,” the order said.

The top court was hearing an appeal challenging the Gujarat High Court order passed on Thursday, August 17.

The High Court had rejected the request for termination of a 26-week-old pregnancy of a rape survivor.

The plea was filed through advocate Vishal Arun Mishra.

Advocate Shashank Singh appeared for the survivor before the top court today.

He pointed out that the order under challenge has not been uploaded yet and that the medical board had recommended a termination of pregnancy.

Advocate Swati Ghildiyal appeared for the State of Gujarat.

Saturday hearings have become more frequent than usual in the Supreme Court in recent times.

In October, a bench of Justices MR Shah (since retired) and Bela M Trivedi had suspended a decision by the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court acquitting former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba in an alleged Maoist links case.

In June this year, a bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Pankaj Mithal stayed an order of the Allahabad High Court that had directed the astrology department of Lucknow University to study a woman’s kundali (horoscope or birth chart) to find out whether she is a mangalik.

In July, in its second special Saturday hearing that day, the Supreme Court granted interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad for seven days in the conspiracy case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Source: Bar and Bench.

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