It was once normal for girls to marry at a young age and deliver a child before they turned 17, a judge of the Gujarat High Court has remarked while hearing a minor rape survivor's plea for permission to terminate her pregnancy.
While indicating that he might not allow the petition if both the girl and foetus were healthy, Justice Samir Dave of the high court also referred to the Manusmriti during the hearing on Wednesday.
The rape survivor is 16 years and 11 months old and carrying a seven-month-old foetus. Her father moved the HC seeking permission for abortion as the pregnancy had crossed the 24-week threshold up to which abortion can be performed without a court's leave.
On Wednesday, his lawyer sought an early hearing, saying the family was concerned because of the girl's age.
Justice Dave said there was anxiety because "we are living in the 21st century".
"Ask your mother or great-grandmother. Fourteen-fifteen was the maximum age (for marriage), and girls used to give birth to their first child before turning 17. And girls get mature before boys...Though you may not read, but you should read Manusmriti once," he added.
As the expected date of delivery is August 16, he consulted expert doctors in his chamber, the judge informed the lawyer.
"The court can consider (allowing abortion) if any serious ailments are found in the foetus or the girl. But if both are normal, it will be very difficult for the court to pass such an order," the judge said.
In the end, the court directed the Medical Superintendent of Rajkot Civil Hospital to get the girl examined by a panel of doctors to find out if the medical termination of pregnancy was advisable.
The doctors should also carry out ossification test on the girl and a psychiatrist should ascertain her mental condition, Justice Dave said, asking the hospital to submit reports by June 15, the next date of hearing.
During the hearing, the judge also advised the girl's lawyer to start looking for options in case the medical opinion went against the termination of pregnancy.
"I will not give permission if both are found healthy. The weight of the foetus is also good...What will you do if the girl gives birth and the child lives? Who will take care of that child? I will also inquire if there are government schemes for such children. You should also check if someone can adopt that child," said the judge.
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