Supreme Court, Manipur
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SC rejects woman’s plea seeking termination of 26-week-old foetus

The top court was on the horns of a dilemma whether to allow the termination of pregnancy or not after a split verdict of an earlier bench

After the AIIMS medical board filed a fresh report on the condition of the foetus, the Supreme Court on Monday (October 16) declined to permit a married woman, a mother of two, to terminate her over 26-week pregnancy as the foetus was healthy. The AIIMS medical board had found no abnormality with the foetus.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said the length of pregnancy has crossed 24 weeks, the upper limit for allowing Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP), and therefore it cannot be permitted.

The top court said the foetus is 26-weeks-and-five-days-old and there was no immediate threat to the mother. There is also no foetal abnormality, it observed. “The length of the pregnancy has crossed 24 weeks and it is approximately 26 weeks and 5 days old. The medical termination of the pregnancy cannot be permitted,” the bench said. The bench also comprised Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misa.

The top court had said earlier in the day that the challenge to pregnancy termination law, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, would be dealt with in separate proceedings, and the present case would be limited to the issue between the petitioner and the State.

The apex court had earlier sought a fresh report from the AIIMS medical board on whether the foetus was suffering from any abnormality.

The bench was hearing arguments on the Centre's plea seeking recall of the apex court's October 9 order permitting the 27-year-old woman, a mother of two, to undergo termination of pregnancy at AIIMS as she was suffering from post-partum psychosis after the birth of her second child.

Under the 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.

The apex was faced with a conundrum over whether to allow the woman to terminate her 26-week pregnancy. The moral dilemma stemmed from what the court said the rights of the unborn child and the woman's right to her bodily autonomy.

The issue arose after one of the doctors of the AIIMS medical board, which examined the woman and filed a report dated October 6 in the apex court, sent an e-mail on October 10 saying the foetus had a strong possibility of survival.

The matter came up before the CJI-led bench after a two-judge bench on Wednesday (October 11) gave a split verdict on the Centre's plea for recall of its October 9 order granting permission to the woman to terminate her pregnancy.

(With inputs from agencies)

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