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Right of Women of Exercising her Reproductive Choice is a dimension of Personal Liberty under Right to life

The Karnataka High Court, in a significant judgement on Thursday, November, 2021, in the case of Kumari D. v. State of Karnataka, observed that Right of a woman to exercise her reproductive choice forms a dimension of ‘Personal Liberty’ under the Fundamental Right to Life embodied in Article 21 of the constitution. The single judge bench comprising Justice NS Sanjay Gowda, mentioned that forcing a woman for bearing with an undesired intrusion on her body and for enduring the consequence of such intrusion clearly violates the inviolable right of Personal liberty which forms an important part of Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.

The case before the court involved such a situation that the medical practitioner had refused for terminating the pregnancy of a sixteen-year rape victim because of it having crossed the limit of 24 weeks as laid down and set under Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The petitioner-minor rape victim had thus approached the court pleading that she cannot be forced for carrying burden of other’s crime and thereby be compelled to deliver the baby, the conceivement of which was against her will and without her consent.

The court, while noting that the act does not provide for termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks even when it is alleged by the women who is pregnant that she has conceived such child as a result of rape, observed that it needs to be kept in mind that by disallowing the minor who has been raped and became pregnant as a consequence of it would be forced not only to become a victim of a crime but also compel her to bear mental and physical burden of child carrying and childbirth which would be directly in violation of her reproductive choice. Even when such child is delivered, it might be detrimental to the interests of such child as well due to the social stigma that would be around such child.

The court further observed that such statutory limitations could not act as impediments and restrictions in the exercise of constitutional powers vested with High Courts and the consequences of continuance of such pregnancy on the future of the 16-year-old victim would be very severe and detrimental and would eventually violate her right to a dignified life as enshrined in Right to Life under Article 21 of the constitution, thus ordering the second respondent to ensure the medical termination of pregnancy is done.

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