Delhi High Court issues directions to be followed by doctors, police while dealing with pregnant sexual assault survivors

The Court ordered that the survivors must be presented for termination of pregnancy within 24 hours of orders being passed and the foetus shall be preserved.

The Delhi High Court recently issued a series of directions to be followed by the authorities and doctors while dealing with survivors of sexual assault who are pregnant [Nabal Thakur v The State]

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said that even in cases where the gestation period is less than 20 weeks, the Investigating Officer (IO) should produce the survivor for the medical termination of pregnancy within 24 hours of passing of such order before the Superintendent of the concerned hospital.

The Court ordered that the doctor concerned will ensure that foetus is preserved and that the survivor is not discharged in a hurry.

“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 foetus is not lost. It shall be 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.

Justice Sharma further highlighted the difficulties faced by the courts in reading or making out the observation in the MLCs or discharge summaries due to illegibility of the doctor’s handwriting, medical abbreviations and the terminologies used.

“Therefore, it is directed that in cases where medical examination of a victim of sexual assault is conducted, all the hospitals concerned will ensure that along with the original MLC as well as discharge summary of such victim, a typed copy of the same is also prepared by the concerned hospital and provided to the investigating officer within a period of one week,” the judge directed.

Justice Sharma further ordered the Delhi government and Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to ensure that the existing guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for conducting examination of victims of sexual assault are circulated in all hospitals in the city.

“The above said Ministries are also directed to circulate the additional directions contained in the present judgment which be added to the existing SOPs, that in case the victim is pregnant and there are orders for medical termination of pregnancy including for preservation of fetus, the investigating officer will place such order before the Superintendent of the hospital concerned, who will ensure that the doctor concerned who is assigned the duty of medical termination of pregnancy conducts the same with utmost caution.”

The Court passed these directions while dealing with the bail application filed by a man accused of sexually assaulting a minor girl.

It was stated that the accused man used to live near the house of the survivor. He called her to his house on some false pretext and told her that he would not let her go till she attained majority. The girl was 16-years-old at the time.

The survivor was finally brought back to her home two months later. Her medical examination showed that she was pregnant. She told the doctors that the man had forcibly established physical relations with her.

The Court rejected the man’s bail plea noting that the girl was repeatedly raped by the accused and therefore, there were no grounds for grant of bail.

It also noted that despite the fact that the girl was admitted to a hospital on several occasions, she suffered a complete abortion at home due to which the sample of the foetus could not be preserved.

The Court found several lacunae in the medical records of the concerned hospital and said that most crucial evidence (the foetus) – could not be preserved in this case due to the negligence of doctors.

Justice Sharma, therefore, issued the directions to be followed by hospitals and other authorities

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