New Delhi: The Supreme Court allowed a woman to abort her 25-week foetus on the basis of a medical report which said it had no brain and skull and there was no treatment available for the anomaly.
The apex court also observed that as per the opinion of the doctors, the condition of the foetus was not compatible with life and continuation of the pregnancy could pose severe mental injury to the 22-year-old woman.
A bench, comprising Justices S A Bobde and L N Rao, noted that the report of medical board which had examined the woman after the apex court's order, clearly said there was no point in allowing the pregnancy to run its full course as the foetus would not be able to survive without a skull.
"In the circumstances, we consider it appropriate in the interests of justice and particularly to permit the petitioner (woman) to undergo medical termination of her pregnancy under the provisions of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971," the bench said.
Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act prohibits abortion of a foetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the government had in accordance with the apex court's earlier direction, communicated to all states and union territories to constitute medical boards to deal with such abortion matters.
"The Union of India has communicated to all the states and union territories about having such medical boards in place," Kumar told the court, adding that the Centre has also suggested speedy disposal of such matters.
The apex court's order came on a petition filed by the Pune-based woman seeking permission to terminate her pregnancy on the ground that the foetus was without a skull and it could endanger her life as well.
The bench had earlier set up a medical board comprising doctors of Pune-based B J Government Medical College to examine her.
The medical board, in its report, said there was a complete absence of "fetal brain and skull vault" and this anomaly was not compatible with life.
It further opined that majority of those who may survive in such condition has serious form of morbidity and succumb within 24 to 48 hours of birth.
"Importantly, it is reported that the continuation of pregnancy can pose severe mental injury to the petitioner and no additional risk to the petitioner's life is involved if she is allowed to undergo termination of her pregnancy," the bench noted in its order.
It directed that termination of pregnancy be performed by the doctors of the hospital where the woman has undergone a medical check-up.
The apex court also took up another plea filed on behalf of a 13-year-old rape survivor seeking permission to terminate her pregnancy of 30-week.
The bench, which had earlier set up a medical board of doctors from the Mumbai-based Sir J J Group of Hospitals to examine the girl, was informed that due to incessant rains in Mumbai, the minor has not been examined yet.
The bench has fixed this matter for hearing on September 4.