Karnataka HC Issues Guidelines for Immediate Pregnancy Assessment for Rape/POCSO Victims

LI Network

Published on: December 17, 2023 at 13:48 IST

The Karnataka High Court has mandated the immediate medical examination of victims upon registering rape or POCSO cases to determine pregnancy.

The court recognized the importance of a systematic approach in handling such cases and issued specific guidelines for their proper management.

The directive stemmed from a case filed on behalf of a 17-year-old minor girl, represented by her father, seeking various reliefs related to a sexual offense that led to pregnancy.

The court allowed the termination of pregnancy and preservation of fetal tissue samples, among other requested reliefs.

Justice Suraj Govindaraj, presiding over the case, emphasized, “Immediately on registration of a sexual offence under Section 376 of IPC or under the POCSO Act, a medical examination of the victim be made to ascertain, among other things, if she is pregnant or not.”

The guidelines further outlined the need to determine the gestation period, physical and mental status of the victim, and factors affecting her ability to undergo medical termination of pregnancy.

The court, after constituting a Medical Board, considered the petitioner’s circumstances, including her age, educational status, and the alleged sexual offenses. Following expert advice, the court deemed the termination of pregnancy reasonable and in the best interest of the victim.

The guidelines also addressed the need for counseling, with specific directives:

  1. In the event of pregnancy, the Child Welfare Committee and/or District Child Protection Unit are directed to inform the victim, providing counsel on legal options such as continuing the pregnancy or opting for termination.
  2. Counseling should be conducted in a language known to the victim, utilizing suitable translators if necessary, to ensure clear communication and understanding.
  3. If medical termination of pregnancy is carried out, tissue samples of the fetus must be sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for DNA analysis, with additional samples preserved for verification if required.
  4. Follow-up checks are recommended to ascertain the physical and mental well-being of the victim.

The court mandated the Director General of Police and the Principal Secretary of Health, Government of Karnataka, to formulate a detailed Standard Operating Procedure and circulate it among relevant stakeholders, including investigating officers, Child Welfare Committees, District Child Protection Units, and government hospitals.

Additionally, the Legal Services Authority is tasked with considering surrounding factors and providing compensation to the victim and her family for immediate needs.

The court concluded by allowing the petition, directing the hospital to proceed with the medical termination of pregnancy and preserve fetal tissue samples. The case will undergo compliance reporting and is set for a follow-up date.

Case Title: X v. State Of Karnataka & Ors., [2023:KHC:45180]

Related Post