'Not To Compel Doctor To Disclose Identity Of Minor': Bombay High Court Directs Palghar Police

'Not To Compel Doctor To Disclose Identity Of Minor': Bombay High Court Directs Palghar Police

The HC was hearing a petition by two doctors seeking direction to the police not to compel them to disclose the identity of the girl.

Imran ShaikhUpdated: Wednesday, May 08, 2024, 02:13 AM IST
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Bombay High Court | PTI

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the Palghar police not to compel a gynaecologist to disclose the identity of a minor who approached him to medically terminate her pregnancy. The court also permitted the doctor to perform the procedure on the minor.

The HC was hearing a petition by two doctors seeking direction to the police not to compel them to disclose the identity of the girl. The girl, 16, and her mother had approached Dr Rajendra Chawhan to terminate the girl’s 14-week pregnancy. She disclosed that she was in a consensual relationship. Since she was a minor, the doctor was required to report the minor’s pregnancy to the police under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act since consent of a girl less than 18 is immaterial. The doctor is also required to collect forensic evidence while performing the procedure.

A bench headed by Justice Revati Mohite-Dere also asked the doctor to take consent from the mother and daughter before collecting and retaining the forensic evidence as required under the POCSO Act.

The petitioner’s advocate Meenaz Kakalia submitted that compelling the registered medical practitioner to disclose the name of the minor seeking to medically terminate a pregnancy is in contravention of directions issued by Supreme Court in a 2022 decision when it comes to MTP and rights of a minor. The apex court, in the matter of X vs Health and Family Welfare department, provided for protection of minor's identity and not to disclose sans consent.

Kakalia said that the state needs to give due publicity to SC judgemnt and direct all police stations in the state not to compel doctors to disclose the identity of minors seeking MTP. When the mother-daughter duo approached Dr Chawha, he wrote a letter to the police on April 30 and mentioned their wish not to disclose the minor’s identity.

The police visited his clinic and claimed that since the matter is under POCSO. The doctor must disclose her identity to the police and. They claimed that the doctor ought to have sent the girl and her mother to the police to complain.

Hence, Dr Chawhan petitioned the HC highlighting the vital aspect that affect many when it comes to MTP and minors. The plea states that minors who engage in consensual acts and get pregnant, avoid going to a registered doctor out of fear of mandatory reporting, which fails to protect and respect their privacy.

The apex court, in its judgement, had stated that the registered medical practitioner need not disclose the minor’s name and identity under the POCSO Act to maintain the minor’s privacy. As far as collecting evidence is concerned, “the consent of the minor and her guardian is considered paramount”, the plea adds. The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare provides a form for obtaining “informed consent” from the victim.

The doctor expressed apprehension that if he fails to preserve the evidence, action could be taken against him by the police for destruction of evidence. “That the ambiguity and lack of clarity as to what precise steps the RMP (registered medical practitioner) is required to take in cases such as the present, coupled with the fear of prosecution leads to a chilling effect on the RMPs,” the plea adds. The HC has kept the petition for further hearing on June 26.

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