The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to consider listing the plea of an unmarried woman who was not allowed by the Delhi High Court to undergo medical termination of pregnancy at 23 weeks arising out of a consensual relationship.
The High Court, while hearing the plea last Friday, had observed that it virtually amounts to killing the foetus.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Hima Kohli was told by the woman’s lawyer that the plea needed an urgent hearing keeping in mind the facts of the case.
"Just now we have been given papers. Let us see," the bench said.
In an order issued on July 16, a Delhi HC bench refused to grant permission to the woman to abort the 23-week foetus, saying it is not permitted under the abortion law after 20 weeks for pregnancy arising out of a consensual relationship.
The High Court, however, sought the Centre's response on the woman's contention that exclusion of unmarried women from being allowed to undergo medical termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks was discriminatory.
The petitioner, a 25-year-old woman, who would complete 24 weeks of gestation on July 18, had told the court that her partner, with whom she was in a consensual relationship, had refused to marry her.
She had stressed that giving birth outside the wedlock would cause her psychological agony as well as social stigma and she was not mentally prepared to be a mother.
The High Court, while dealing with the plea, had said the court cannot go beyond the statute while exercising its power under Article 226 of the Constitution.
"The petitioner, who is an unmarried woman and whose pregnancy arises out of a consensual relationship, is clearly not covered by any of the clauses under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003," the court noted in its order dated July 15.
"As of today, Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003 (which excludes unmarried women) stands, and this court, while exercising its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, 1950, cannot go beyond the statute,” it had said.
Before passing the order, the High Court had suggested that the petitioner can be kept "somewhere safe" until she delivers the child who can subsequently be given up for adoption.
"We will ensure that the girl is kept somewhere safe and she can deliver and go. There is a big queue for adoption," the court had said.
After the lawyer turned down the court's suggestion, it said that it would pass an order on the petition.