Friday, July 24, 2009

Detailed Facts of the Chandigarh Case of Raped Mentally challenged Girl's Pregnancy

Dear Friends,

My senior colleage Shri Collin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court who represented one of the social activist in the said case, has very kindly put forth the detailed actual facts of the case which reveal how difficult it was to take either of the decision - be it in favour of continuing the pregnancy and aborting the forced pregnancy. He also highlights the lack of support systems to the challenged girl and that despite widely publicised in the media, no social organisation or the Govt. of Chandigarh came forward to help and assist the Girl in any manner and they allowed the featus to grow to reach such a stage when any abortion could pose a danger to her life. Additionally this also highlights that by disallowing the MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) the Supreme Court might have done more harm to the girl than an ideological justice, especially given the medical findings and lack of support and assistance to the girl to take an informed decision about herself!
For those who are keen on accessing the Supreme Court Final judgement, they may access from here: Final Judgement: Shuchita Srivastavs Vs. Chandigarh Administration
Justice Kannan, a sitting Justice of Chandigarh highcourt, who is also a blogger since 2007 has reflected on this case on his blog which might be of interest to the readers. You may access Justice Kannan's perspective here.

The detailed note from Shri Collin Gonsalves also includes both judgements from the High Court of Punjab & Haryana which elucidates the reasoning for the order later reversed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court as informed in my earlier post. To me in either case, the girl has suffered and would suffer. By allowing the girl to retain the pregnancy, it might have been a win for pro-life activists but the track record so far in this case does give a grim picture of society and social organisations coming forward to support leave the Govt. setup aside where such a terrible incident occured.


Here is the note for your information:

The Right to Abort Vs. The Right to Give Birth

Chandigarh Administration Vs. Nemo

Colin Gonsalves

This note is being circulated so that you may have a look at the facts before the High Court in this case so as to make an informed decision on the merits of the case.

Every woman in India has the fundamental right to abort or to continue with the pregnancy. Her decision is paramount. This is no less true in the case of mentally challenged women. To emphasis, her decision is final. No guardian and no court can take a decision on her behalf contrary to her decision.

The problem lies in determining her point of view. The law requires that she be supported and assisted in every way possible so that ultimately she may make an informed decision one way or the other. If the woman’s point of view is not possible to determine then the guardian or the court must take a decision in the best interest of the woman.

In the Nari Niketan case the legal issues became very complex as consent could not be taken as the woman was not given any support or assistance. Therefore the Chandigarh Administration as well as the Punjab and Haryana High Court proceeded on the basis of rough justice by appointing medical committees to make an assessment of the point of view of the woman as well as her ability to cope with the pregnancy and childbirth. The facts of this case are as given below.

A 19 year old mentally challenged woman kept at Nari Niketan, Chandigarh which is a government institution for destitute women, was raped sometime in March 2009 on the premises by the security guards and conceived. In May 2009 the pregnancy was detected. The rape was widely reported in the media. Despite that no institution or individual came forward to assist or support the woman. In the same month the Director of the Government Medical College and Hospital constituted a three member Board consisting of a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist and a special educator to evaluate the mental status of the woman. Their report did not suggest anything out of the ordinary except for the observation that “she also cries almost daily”. The Board found that her mental age came out to be 9 years and that she fell in the category of mild mental retardation. A few days later, a four doctor Multi Disciplinary Medical Board was constituted which included a psychiatrist and the Board submitted a report recommending medical termination of pregnancy in the following terms:

“2. There is no doubt that this pregnancy is an outcome of the rape. In spite of being upset over mentally challenged, she has earlier communicated to her examiners about being upset over this incident and has lost interest in certain activities which were enjoyable earlier indicating that she might be mentally upset about this incident.

3. She has undergone a major spinal surgery during her childhood, as she was not able to walk. Although she isnot able to elaborate the details further. The cause of mental retardation in presence of bony abnormalities can have a genetic basis and can be inherited by the baby.

4. Continuation of pregnancy in this case can be associated with certain complications considering her age, mental status and previous surgery. There are increased chances of abortions, anaemia, hypertension, prematurity, low birth weight babies, foetal distress and more chances of operative delivery including anaesthetic complications. Babies who are premature and low birth weight may have organs that are not fully developed. This can lead to breathing problems, such as respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, vision loss and serious intestinal problems.

5. Being mildly mentally retarded, she is unable to look after herself and can not fend for herself if left to her own devices. She was aware that there is a child inside her, although she had absolutely no idea how it came to be there. She cannot mother a child. Motherhood is not only holding the child but it is a complex relationship which is beyond her capability and comprehension.

6. Child of a rape victim who doesn't have family support can have social and emotional problems which can jeopardize his complete physical, mental and social well being later.

7. There is clear-cut humanitarian ground as per the MTP Act as pregnancy is a result of rape on the basis of which MTP can be done. The board would like to highlight that MTP can also be associated with some complications which are dependent on the duration of pregnancy, expertise of the doctor performing the MTP and the method used for MTP. Immediate complications included haemorrhage and cervical injuries. Delayed complications include post abortal bleeding, in complete abortion; pelvic infection, peritonitis, and septicemia. The incidence of these complications is reported in 2.9% of cases, although the incidence of severe complications is very rare. The complications can still be minimized by doing a timely abortion under expert doctor. Considering all the above points, the Board is of the opinion that she will not be able to cope with the continuation of pregnancy which in this case is detrimental for her and the child's health, and so recommends medical termination of pregnancy [MTP]”.

Click here for remaining part of the note

Click here for the Part-I of Punjab & Haryana High Court Judgement

Click here for the Part-II of Punjab & Haryana High Court Judgement
regards
SC Vashishth, Advocate

1 comment:

Ravi said...

u r superb sir!!!