A woman has complete autonomy over her body, including conceiving a child and retention of pregnancy

Madras High Court: Deliberating upon a relevant issue as to whether, “a minor daughter’s right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to create a life”, the Bench of Dr. S. Vimala, J., observed that it is a woman’s choice and her autonomy to decide what to do with her body,  including conceiving a child and retention of pregnancy. With this observation, the Court thus held that considering the right to life, which includes the right to create a life, the right to dignity, the right to autonomy and bodily integrity, the Court cannot order the abortion of the foetus against the wishes of the victim girl as in the present case.

The present writ petition came up whereby which the petitioner (father) pleaded before the Court to direct the government hospital to medically terminate the pregnancy of his daughter under Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act as the continuance of such pregnancy would cause grave physical and mental agony to his daughter, however the daughter was reluctant to abort the foetus and expressed her desire to continue with the pregnancy.

Examining the contentions of the parties, the Court first chose to look into the matter as to whether the daughter was a minor or major on the date of the alleged occurrence and on the date of production before the Court. Perusing the evidences, the Court decided that at the time of the sexual intercourse and conception the girl was a minor (17 years), however she attained majority on the date of her production before this Court. The Court further observed that India has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which places importance upon the decision-making ability of a child in matters affecting him/her directly or indirectly. Furthermore the Court highlighted the controversies surrounding certain provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the disadvantages of teenage pregnancies. However, upon observing that the girl has formed a positive opinion regarding continuing her pregnancy, the Court declined to pass any order regarding termination of her pregnancy. The Court also observed that controversies, conflicts and constitutional validity of the POCSO Act can only be decided by the Division Bench of this Court as per the considerations of the Chief Justice of this Court. [Marimuthu v. The Inspector of Police, WP (MD) No. 12212 of 2016, decided on 19.09.2016]

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