Supreme Court directs Bihar govt to pay Rs 10 Lakh to pregnant rape survivor

Supreme Court directs Bihar govt to pay Rs 10 Lakh to pregnant rape survivor

NEW DELHI: Holding Bihar government responsible for not coming to the rescue of 35-year-old destitute HIV positive woman who wanted to abort her pregnancy arising out of rape, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed it to pay compensation of Rs 10 lakh to her.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar said the state authorities had put hurdle in her legal fight to undergo abortion by opposing her plea in Patna High Court and by the time she approached Supreme Court it was loo late and risky to allow her to terminate her pregnancy. It said that she could have been spared the agony of giving birth of the child if the state government had acted promptly as per law and without wasting the crucial time.

"There was no justification to push back her rights and throw her into darkness to corrode her self-respect and individual concern. She had decided to exercise her statutory right, being a victim of rape, not to bear the child and more so, when there is possibility of the child likely to suffer from HIV positive, the authorities of the State should have been more equipped to assist her instead of delaying the process. That apart, as is seen, the State in a way contested the matter before the High Court on the foundation of State interest," the bench said

Noting that the crucial time got wasted as the woman had to fight a legal battle to seek permission to abort the foetus, the bench rapped the state government for opposing her plea in HC which refused to allow her to abort. It also raised question on HC for not handling the case with sensitivity and said that there was a fault on the part of the state government and Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and it was because of them that she was denied her right to undergo abortion.

"In the instant case, it is luminescent that she has suffered grave injury to her mental health. The said injury is in continuance. It is a sad thing that despite the prompt attempt made by this Court to get her examined so that she need not undergo the anguish of bearing a child because she is a victim of rape, it could not be done as the medical report clearly stated that there was risk to the life of the victim," the bench said.

"Therefore, we are inclined to think that the continuance of the injury creates a dent in the mind and she is compelled to suffer the same. One may have courage or cultivate courage to face a situation, but the shock of rape is bound to chain and enslave her with the trauma she has faced and cataclysm that she has to go through. Her condition cannot be reversed. The situation as is unredeemable. But being a pregnant one, she has to be compensated so that she lives her life with dignity and the authorities of the state who were negligent would understand that truancy has no space in a situation of the present kind. What is needed is promptitude," the court said.

The court had on May 9 ordered the state to pay Rs 3 Lakh to her under the Victims Compensation Scheme and asked the government to provide all medical facilities to her free-of-cost. It directed the state to fix deposit additional Rs 10 lakh in her name and allowed her to withdraw interest to meet her expenses.

The woman, who was lodged in a rehabilitation centre at Patna after her sexual assault, became aware of her pregnancy at an advanced stage but wanted to terminate it.