The Delhi High Court has issued a series of guidelines that need to be followed by doctors and concerned authorities while dealing with cases of medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) of rape survivors.
The single judge bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma directed that after the order for medical termination of pregnancy, the investigation officer must present the survivor before the hospital for carrying out the procedure within 24 hours. The directives shall apply even in cases where the period of pregnancy is less than 20 weeks.
The High Court further stated that the hospital must keep the foetus preserved and ensure that the survivor is not discharged in a hurry.
What did the court say?
“The doctor concerned will also mention, in case the victim is discharged without termination of pregnancy, the reasons for the same so that the crucial evidence in the form of the foetus is not lost. It shall be the duty of the doctor concerned also to mention in detail, the treatment given to the victim of sexual assault including any medicines given or procedure carried out for the purpose of termination of pregnancy,” the Court said.
The court passed the order while rejecting the bail plea of an accused in a sexual assault case of a 16-year-old, as per a 2020 First Information Report.
The court also highlighted the struggles of reading the observations made in original medico-legal cases (MLC) and discharge summaries due to the illegibility of the doctor’s handwriting and the use of jargon. In its order, the bench of Justice Sharma directed hospitals to make a typed copy of the MLC and other documents and hand them over to the IO (investigating officer) within a week.
The court further stated that the latest directions shall be seen as an addition to the guidelines issued on January 25 for cases where the rape and sexual assault victim’s pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks.
The court ordered the Delhi government and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to circulate the guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for conducting examinations of victims of sexual assault in all hospitals in the city.