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Rape to include marital rape for purpose of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act: SC

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The Supreme Court on Thursday said that all women, including the unmarried, are entitled to safe and legal abortion, and also the meaning of rape must be understood as including marital rape, solely for the purposes of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and any rules and regulations framed thereunder.

And, married women may also form part of the class of survivors of sexual assault or rape, it added.

A bench, headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, said it is not inconceivable that married women become pregnant as a result of their husbands having “raped” them and the nature of sexual violence and the contours of consent do not undergo a transformation when one decides to marry.

“The institution of marriage does not influence the answer to the question of whether a woman has consented to sexual relations. If the woman is in an abusive relationship, she may face great difficulty in accessing medical resources or consulting doctors,” it added.

The bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and J.B. Pardiwala, said the state has a positive obligation under Article 21 of the Constitution to protect the right to health, and particularly reproductive health of individuals.

“Married women may also form part of the class of survivors of sexual assault or rapea… A woman may become pregnant as a result of non-consensual sexual intercourse performed upon her by her husband. We would be remiss in not recognising that intimate partner violence is a reality and can take the form of rape,” said Justice Chandrachud, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench.

It added that the misconception that strangers are exclusively or almost exclusively responsible for sex- and gender-based violence is a deeply regrettable one.

The bench said that there is no requirement that an FIR must be registered or the allegation of rape must be proved in a court of law or some other forum before it can be considered true for the purposes of the MTP Act.

Emphasising that the right to dignity encapsulates the right of every individual to be treated as a self-governing entity having intrinsic value, it added that in the context of abortion, the right to dignity entails recognising the competence and authority of every woman to take reproductive decisions, including the decision to terminate the pregnancy.

“The right of every woman to make reproductive choices without undue interference from the state is central to the idea of human dignity. Deprivation of access to reproductive healthcare or emotional and physical wellbeing also injures the dignity of women,” it added.

Justice Chandrachud said if women with unwanted pregnancies are forced to carry their pregnancies to term, the state would be stripping them of the right to determine the immediate and long-term path their lives would take.

“Depriving women of autonomy not only over their bodies but also over their lives would be an affront to their dignity. The right to choose for oneself – be it as significant as choosing the course of one’s life or as mundane as one’s day-to-day activities – forms a part of the right to dignity,” he added, in the 75-page verdict.

The bench said the law should not decide the beneficiaries of a statute based on narrow patriarchal principles about what constitutes “permissible sex”, which create invidious classifications and excludes groups based on their personal circumstances.

“The rights of reproductive autonomy, dignity, and privacy under Article 21 give an unmarried woman the right of choice on whether or not to bear a child, on a similar footing of a married woman, “it added.

The object of Section 3(2)(b) of the MTP Act read with Rule 3B is to provide for abortions between 20 and 24 weeks, rendered unwanted due to a change in the material circumstances of women.

“In view of the object, there is no rationale for excluding unmarried or single women (who face a change in their material circumstances) from the ambit of Rule 3B. A narrow interpretation of Rule 3B, limited only to married women, would render the provision discriminatory towards unmarried women and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” said Justice Chandrachud.

The bench said importantly, it is the woman alone who has the right over her body and is the ultimate decisionmaker on the question of whether she wants to undergo an abortion. “In order to avail the benefit of Rule 3B(a), the woman need not necessarily seek recourse to formal legal proceedings to prove the factum of sexual assault, rape or incest,” said the bench.

On July 21, the top court had allowed a 25-year-old to abort her 24-week pregnancy arising out of a consensual relationship. In the judgment, the top court dealt with various aspects of the issue, including forced pregnancy. The woman had moved challenged the Delhi High Court, which refused to entertain her request to terminate her 24-week foetus, under Rule 3B, dealing with categories of women entitled to abortion, of the MTP Rules, 2003.

National News

BJP slams Cong for abusing PM Modi

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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has slammed the Congress for abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Taking potshots at the Congress, party’s National spokesperson Sambit Patra on Saturday said that Congress leaders have completed a century of abuses against Modi.

Addressing a press conference, Patra added, “The manner in which top leaders of the Congress party are repeatedly using language and abuses for PM Modi is being seen on TV every day. In such a situation, the Congress has established itself as a party of abusers. Congress leaders called Modi ji ‘lowly’, ‘Yamraj’ and what not. In this way, Congress leaders have completed 100 abuses. It reflects their thinking.”

“A Congress leader from Karnataka has called Modi ji ‘Bhasmasur’. Similarly, recently Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge called Modi ji ‘Ravan’. Sonia Gandhi even called Modi ji a ‘Merchant of Death’,” he said.

Urging the people of the country, Sambit added, “We call upon the people of Gujarat and the country to reject such Congress party in a democratic way by adopting the cycle of democracy.”

Condemning Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, he said, “Similarly Arvind Kejriwal tries to make a lie the truth. Just a few days back, Kejriwal said that Manish Sisodia has got a clean chit and the scam that has taken place in the Excise policy is not a scam, but he is not going to be saved.”

He also added, “From Manish Sisodia to many accused have changed mobile phones dozens of times in this case. From this you can guess whether the common man changes mobile phones so quickly.”

The BJP National Spokesperson said, “Large-scale destruction of digital evidence done by Ex-Excise Minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia; 170 mobile phones destroyed by 36 accused in Delhi liquor scam including him. Manish Sisodia changed four mobile handsets in one day and 14 handsets in 2-3 months after CBI’s FIR against him. He might have consulted Delhi CM Kejriwal, AAP leader Vijay Nair, liquor scam accused Amit Arora and Sunny Marwah to destroy digital evidence. Sisodia has a huge hand in Excise policy scam, investigation is going on, no one can save him.”

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Crime

Shraddha murder case: Aaftab’s post-narco test concludes

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The post-narco test of Aaftab Amin Poonawalla, the accused in the ghastly murder of his live-in partner Shraddha Walkar in Delhi’s Mehrauli area, concluded on Friday. His test was conducted inside the Tihar prison by the FSL officials.

As per sources, the team from the Forensic Science Laboratory, Rohini had reached Tihar jail for the post-narco test at around 11.30 a.m.

“A four-member team had reached Tihar Jail No.-4 on Friday along with the investigating officer for a post-narco analysis session of Aaftab,” said a senior FSL official.

“The test started around 12. He was again asked similar questions and his answers will be matched with the questions from the previous narco analysis session,” said the sources.

If needed, the narco test will be done again, claimed the sources.

Further details were awaited.

Meanwhile, the prison authorities have also increased the security of his barrack after the police van was attacked by men, who were armed with swords.

Though his confessions in the narco test cannot be used in the court, yet it proved that the investigators were proceeding in the right direction.

Pertinent to mention here that the findings of both polygraph and narco test are not admissible in the court. These tests will only help the Delhi Police gather evidence, and thereby increase the possibility of prosecution of the guilty.

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National News

Warrants against 16 to thwart Hanuman Chalisa call at Shahi Eidgah in Mathura

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To thwart a call by a Hindu outfit to recite the Hanuman Chalisa inside Shahi Eidgah mosque on December 6, the Mathura city magistrate has issued bailable warrants against 16 people connected to the outfit.

Mathura Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Martand Prakash Singh said that no permission has been sought by any organisation and cases have already been registered against two people so far for attempting to gather a crowd for the event.

Last month, the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) had urged all its leaders and supporters to arrive at the mosque, adjacent to Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna, on December 6 to recite the Hanuman Chalisa.

ABHM president Rajyashree Bose Chaudhary had said, “The event will take place on December 6. The peaceful recital of Hanuman Chalisa will be conducted at Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi between 12 and 12.30 p.m.”

Sanjay Kumar Pandey, SHO of the Govind Nagar police station said around three dozen people have already been bound by notices. Being bound by a notice is a situation wherein an executive magistrate serves a show cause notice with a surety bond to a person on the apprehension that he/she may disturb the peace.

“Those who failed to respond and fill the required surety bond have been issued bailable warrants by the court of the city magistrate. Sixteen people have been issued warrants,” he said.

Chaudhary, meanwhile, condemned the police action and said, “We have planned a peaceful event. As such, there is no reason for police to intervene because we will offer prayers at the site.”

The ongoing dispute involves ownership of 13.37 acres, which the petitioners claim belongs to the Lord Shri Krishna Virajman.

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