Suchita Srivastava & Anr v. Chandigarh Administration
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 28/08/2009
COURT: Supreme Court of India
JUDGES: K.G. Balakrishnan, P. Sathasivam, B.S. Chauhan
REFERENCE: 9 SCC 1 (2009)
Petitioner: Suchita Srivastava
Respondent: Chandigarh Administration
SUBJECT: The judgment revolves around the question of whether “a mentally retarded person has sufficient mental capacity to decide if she can carry forward her pregnancy?”
FACTS: The petitioner in the present case has requested the Court to allow a mentally retarded rape victim to continue her pregnancy as she was willing to do the same. The victim who was an orphan was brought up in Ashreya a State-run orphanage. Once when she was diagnosed for lower abdominal pain the doctors confirmed that, she was 8-10 weeks pregnant which was later found to be a consequence of rape. The respondents in the present case initially approached the HC to allow her to terminate the pregnancy. The HC formed a Medical board to probe into the matter. Further the Medical board confirmed that, though she was mentally retarded she showed her willingness to carry forward her pregnancy. But the Court not accepting the decision of the Medical board ordered her to undergo termination. Hence the present petition has been filed before the SC to allow her to have the child.
The Indian Constitution:
- Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part III
- The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
- The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III
- Article 21: No person shall be denied of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
- Whether “a mentally retarded person has sufficient mental capacity to decide if she can carry forward her pregnancy?”
The petitioner contended that,
- Reproductive rights form a part of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The victim has only mild mental retardations and was not suffering from mental illness.
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 requires consent of the pregnant woman. Therefore, claiming it to be an act in her “best interest” termination cannot be carried forward without her consent.
- Further the Medical Board has also submitted its report which states that, the victim may be permitted to have her child.
The respondents contended that,
- The victim herself is dependent on someone to help her survive on top of it she may not be able to take proper care of the child.
- Being a mentally retarded person, she is incapable of taking valid decisions.
- Since the victim is under the care of the State, it should be permitted to take decisions in the victim’s best interest.
Upon hearing the parties to the case, the Court held that, the victim’s pregnancy may not be terminated without her consent as it may not be in her best interest. However, considering her mental health which may be affected due to the biological changes in her body the Court directed the concerned authorities to provide her with all medical needs during pregnancy and childbirth. The Chairperson of the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism,
Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities (constituted under the similarly named 1999 Act) was asked to help the victim raise her child.