The Indian Penal Code came into practice in 1860 and was written in accordance with the British law . In fact, the British wrote it for us! Immediately after their exit, India should have reworked on the IPC and made it relevant, keeping only India’s sensitivities in mind.
Of course, abortion was illegal then. Abortion practitioners would either be imprisoned for up to three years, fined, or both; women undergoing abortions could be jailed for up to seven years. The only exception was when abortion was performed in order to save the woman’s life.
Despite the fact that this statute was removed by Great Britain in 1967, India continued to follow the outdated law until 1971! In the interim, numerous women died attempting illegal abortions.
Laws regulating abortion in the 21st century is off the mark, too.
Although the Supreme Court has finally allowed justice to prevail, the 14-year-old rape victim had to endure shame and immense trauma before being authorised to go for abortion. The girl had been sedated and raped by a doctor.
The minor’s plea was earlier rejected by the Gujarat High Court on the grounds that a life in the womb would be destroyed if abortion was allowed. The Court did not even order a medical team to assess the girl’s medical condition, whether she would be able to withstand the trauma of child delivery at such a tender age herself. Indian laws allow termination of pregnancy until 20 weeks’ gestation.
It is this sort of decision-making that needs to be revisited, and finally abolished without any delay! Courts work on evidence and laws of the land. Their mandate has forever been to rely only on evidence; they never allowed human emotion to interfere with their sense of justice. But is this always the right way to go?
The Gujarat High Court was more concerned about the life of an unborn, rather than being sensitive and responsible to the little girl whose entire life now stands at the crossroads.
The hand of Supreme Court may have come to her rescue, but it is delayed justice. She is into her 25th week of pregnancy. She had approached the Gujarat High Court when she was only 20-week pregnant. The girl went through the pain of enduring five more weeks of pregnancy. Had the Court realised the gravity of the situation on time, she would have, perhaps, moved on towards rehabilitation.
The nonchalance with which the High Court ruled in the case tells me that the Indian Courts needs to be sensitised more. They cannot be blinded by the rule books. The guardians of justice must also allow their hearts to take over, sometimes.
The anti-abortion laws were put in practice in 1994 to arrest the twisted sex ratio. The reason behind this is people’s preference for male child, resulting in abortion of female foetuses after discovering the sex of the child in the womb.
But the law cannot be as straightforward. At the moment, the only way a woman can have abortion is if her life is in danger. There must be provisions in the law to address issues faced by minor victims of rapes. The womb belongs to the mother, even if she is only a child herself.
In normal circumstances, a woman should not be permitted to abort just because she wants to. But in this girl’s case, pregnancy was forced upon her, a terrible act of crime!
No one, not even the all-powerful Courts, should possess the right to order a woman to continue with pregnancy under such circumstances. Maybe this is where they need to apply their minds and hearts, both.