Centre assures to re-initiate process to amend MTP Act


The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday informed the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court that a final draft Cabinet note for the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act Amendment had been sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The submission was made in suo motu proceedings initiated to seek a response from the Centre on increasing the gestation period for termination of pregnancy from 20 to 24 weeks, as per a 2014 proposal.

The Centre informed a Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and B. Pugalendhi that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, after seeking comments on the draft Cabinet note for the MTP Act Amendment from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Niti Ayog, had sent the final draft to the Ministry of Law and Justice on March 1.

However, it was returned by the Ministry of Law and Justice on March 14, stating that both the houses of Parliament had been adjourned sine die. Therefore, after a new government was sworn in, the draft note could be forwarded for obtaining the concurrence of the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The Centre undertook to re-initiate the process for the amendment to the MTP Act, 1971, in the counter affidavit.

Earlier, the High Court Bench, which was concerned over the increase in cases of unwanted pregnancies due to rape and forced relationship, mooted an extension of the gestation period. It wanted the Centre to come up with a time frame by which the MTP Act, 1971, could be amended.

The HC Bench had taken suo motu cognisance of a report from World Health Organisation and March of Dimes, which said 2.70 crore children were born in India every year and among them 17 lakh were born with abnormalities. The extension would help avoid unwanted pregnancies. Doctors were finding it very difficult to diagnose abnormalities in foetus within 20 weeks, as in certain instances, the cases were reported late, the court said.

Meanwhile, the court allowed an impleading petition filed by Frank Simon Stanley of Life for All, a Coimbatore-based NGO, who said the government should ensure that pregnant women had safe and institutional deliveries without having to face complexities, rather than putting a blanket assumption of considering termination as the only solution.

The petitioner claimed that if the limit of 20 weeks was extended to 24 weeks for termination of pregnancy, it could lead to illegal sex determination tests.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 7:29:32 PM |

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