India’s Supreme Court issues notice to Central govt after plea said it violates right to life


India’s Supreme Court has issued a notice to the country’s Central government on a plea challenging the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. The plea states that allowing abortion of a foetus, due to various reasons, violated the right to life of the yet-to-be-born.

A bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and C.T. Ravi Kumar sought a reply from the Central government on a petition filed by ‘Cry for Life Society’ and others.

The petitioners challenged the validity of the Kerala High Court’s order of June 9, 2020 which declined to entertain their plea. In the apex court, the petitioners contended that their plea “raises substantial questions of law in relation to the provisions of Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.”

Abortion in India has been legal under various circumstances for the last 50 years with the introduction of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act in 1971. The Act was amended in 2003 to enable women’s accessibility to safe and legal abortion services.

In 2021, the MTP Amendment Act 2021 was passed with certain amendments in the MTP Act including all women being allowed to seek safe abortion services on grounds of contraceptive failure, increase in gestation limit to 24 weeks for special categories of women, and the opinion of one provider required up to 20 weeks of gestation. Abortion can now be performed until 24 weeks pregnancy as per the MTP Amendment Act 2021.

The petitioners, led by senior advocate K. Radhakrishnan and advocate John Mathew, contended that abortion violates the right to life and the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the yet to be born.

The plea contended that once the child is formed, it acquires all rights of a human being and is entitled to all protection afforded to every citizen of India, including the right to life and property; the only exception is when it becomes a risk or threat to the life of the mother.

The plea added, “The High Court of Kerala dismissed the writ petition concluding that the validity of Section-3 (2) was upheld by this court in its letter and spirit in the decisions of this court and relied on by the High Court in the impugned judgment, when the validity and the vires were not actually under challenge in those cases before this court.”