'Valuable time lost': SC slams Gujarat HC for delaying rape survivor's abortion plea

Supreme Court of India. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Saturday held a special sitting to urgently hear the plea of a rape victim for termination of pregnancy which is nearing 28 weeks. The woman approached the apex court after the Gujarat High Court refused her relief.

A bench comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan held the special sitting at 10.30 am.

The petitioner's lawyer Shashank Singh submitted that the medical board opined in favour of termination of pregnancy; however, the High Court did not entertain the plea for abortion.

The counsel informed the bench that the writ petition was filed in the High Court on August 7, and the Court took the matter on August 8 on which date a direction to constitute a medical board was passed to ascertain the status of pregnancy. On August 10, the report of the board was submitted. On August 11, the Court took the report on record and posted the matter to August 23.

The Supreme Court expressed surprise at the High Court posting the matter after 12 days. "How can the court stand it over to 23rd August? How many valuable days would have been lost by then!", a dismayed Justice Nagarathna said.

The bench recorded its dissatisfaction in the order, by observing : "Strangely, the High Court posted the case 12 days thereafter on 23.08.2023, losing sight of the fact that every day's delay was crucial and of great significance having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case. In the instant case, when the petitioner had approached the Court, she was already 26 weeks pregnant. Therefore, we find that valuable time has been lost between 11.08.2023, when the report was placed before the High Court and the order stating that the matter will stand over to 23.08.2023".

The counsel further submitted that the case was however listed before the High Court on August 17 on which date the petition was dismissed. However, the order of dismissal has not been uploaded yet. In this backdrop, the Court directed the Secretary General of the Supreme Court to ascertain from the Gujarat High Court Registry if the order has been uploaded.

"We will wait for order. How can we proceed without the order?", Justice Nagarathna expressed anguish."In such cases, there should be a sense of urgency. Not a lackadaisical attitude treating it as a normal matter! We are sorry to make these remarks", Justice Nagarathna added.

The bench directed for a fresh medical examination of the petitioner and directed her to appear before the hospital for being examined once again today. The report has to be submitted before the Supreme Court by Sunday. The bench will hear the matter again on Monday as the first item.

(With PTI inputs.)

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