The HC had appointed former advocate general Darius Khambata as amicus curiae for assistance to analyse the law and its powers in such cases.

In a landmark ruling, the Bombay high court has said a registered doctor can terminate a pregnancy that has crossed the legal abortion limit of 20 weeks without the court’s permission only if it is to save the life of the woman. 

The HC, however, held that its permission still has to be sought when a pregnancy has exceeded 20 weeks and the woman “fears its continuation would involve grave injury to her physical or mental health or where there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”. “In such cases, the pregnant woman will have to seek permission from the high court and unless such permission is granted, no registered medical practitioner can terminate such pregnancy,” held the bench of Justices Abhay Oka and M S Sanklecha on Wednesday. 

The court held that given the rise in the number of cases coming before it for permission to terminate pregnancies beyond 20 weeks, it is expedient that the state government set up medical boards to assess such requests and called for formulation of policies to lay down proper procedures to govern the boards. “Since such matters are on the rise and since the resolution of such issues brooks no delay, we have, relying mainly upon SC decisions, attempted to suggest procedures and safeguards, which we propose to follow until the state formulates policies in such matters,” said the bench. 

The HC had appointed former advocate general Darius Khambata as amicus curiae for assistance to analyse the law and its powers in such cases. The HC directed the state government to establish within three months, medical boards in every district to examine pregnant women and to furnish reports in cases where women have approached courts for permission after 20 weeks of gestation.

Till the policy is framed, the HC held that if a baby is born even after being MTP beyond 20 weeks is permitted, the hospital or clinic concerned will have to assume full responsibility to ensure that the child is offered best medical treatment available for its healthy development. If the child’s parents abandon it or are not in a position to take care of it, the state has to step in to care for the child, held the HC.

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