In a significant legal pronouncement, the Madras High Court has ruled that doctors are not obligated to reveal the identity of a minor seeking termination of pregnancy due to consensual sexual activity.
This landmark decision was issued by a Special Bench of Justices N Anand Venkatesh and Sunder Mohan, specially convened to address cases involving the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The ruling hinged on a precedent set by the Supreme Court, which the Madras High Court bench emphasised. The Supreme Court had previously underscored that registered medical practitioners (RMPs) are bound by Section 19(1) of the POCSO Act to notify relevant authorities when a minor seeks pregnancy termination arising from consensual sexual activity.
However, the higher court also acknowledged that adolescents and their guardians might be hesitant to engage with the mandatory reporting requirement, given potential legal entanglements.
Resorting To Unsafe Abortion Methods
For minors and their guardians facing such delicate circumstances, the options have often appeared limited: either consults an RMP and potentially become entwined in POCSO Act-related legal proceedings or resort to an unqualified medical practitioner for pregnancy termination.
The heart of the issue lay in whether the minor's identity should be disclosed in the report, as mandated by Section 19(1) of the POCSO Act.
The Supreme Court had voiced concerns that such insistence on disclosure might discourage minors from seeking assistance from RMPs for safe pregnancy termination under the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
In light of this, the Madras High Court's bench asserted,
"It is clear from the above that where a minor approaches a registered medical practitioner for medical termination of pregnancy arising out of a consensual sexual activity, it is not necessary to insist for the disclosure of the name of the minor in the report that is normally given under Section 19(1) of the POCSO Act. This procedure has to be followed, since there are instances where minor and their guardian may not be interested in proceeding further with the case and to entangle themselves with a legal process. In such instances, such termination of pregnancy can be made without the disclosure of the name of the minor."
This ruling marks a pivotal moment in the legal landscape, emphasising the importance of preserving the privacy and well-being of minors in sensitive matters while also balancing the need for legal accountability.
The Madras High Court's stance aligns with a growing recognition of the complexities surrounding these situations, enabling young individuals to make informed choices while safeguarding their rights and dignity.
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