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Seal on HIV test before marriage

New Delhi, Jan. 2: The Supreme Court has ruled that both parties to a marriage — the prospective bride as well as the groom — have the right to know each other’s HIV status.

The court also said that the right of an HIV-positive person to marry is a “suspended right”. The ruling comes in the middle of a global debate on the conjugal rights of AIDS patients.

A three-judge bench of Justice S. Rajendra Babu, Justice P. Venkatarama Reddi and Justice Arun Kumar gave the ruling while dismissing the petition of an HIV-positive doctor in a case in which the apex court withheld the names of the parties to avoid adverse publicity.

The appellant had sought compensation from a hospital as its doctors had disclosed his HIV status to his relatives, who passed on the information to his prospective bride’s family.

The doctor had gone to Chennai accompanied by his uncle, who was a transport minister in Nagaland, for surgery. In the clinic, it was confirmed that he was HIV positive. On return to Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, the minister told the family of the doctor’s fiancée about his nephew’s illness. The doctor was forced to leave Kohima as several people were aware of his HIV status and he was ostracised.

The doctor had filed a petition before the National Consumer Forum, seeking compensation from the clinic. But the consumer forum directed him to a court, saying only a civil suit was possible. On appeal, the apex court dismissed the petition.

The Supreme Court said: “It was open to the hospital or the doctor concerned to reveal such information to persons related to the girl whom he intended to marry and she had a right to know about the HIV positive status of the appellant (the doctor)”.

Under Section 269 of the IPC, “Whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reasons to believe to be, likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months or with fine or with both”.

Section 270 says: “Whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reasons to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or fine or with both.”

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