X v. The Principal Secretary Health & Family Welfare Department & Anr

Supreme Court of India | Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (C) No(s) 12612/2022

Background facts

  • The Special Leave Petition revolves around permission to terminate the ongoing and unwanted pregnancy of the Petitioner.
  • X (Petitioner) is a permanent resident of Manipur and is currently residing in Delhi. The Petitioner averred that she was in a consensual relationship and, in the month of June 2022 she learnt that she was pregnant. An ultrasound scan conducted on July 05, 2022 revealed that she was pregnant with a term of 22 weeks.
  • Pursuant to this, she decided to terminate the pregnancy and filed a Writ Petition before the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi (HC) seeking permission to terminate her pregnancy. The Petitioner submitted that she was not in the financial position to raise a child, and that the pregnancy arose out of a consensual relationship, which had failed and thus no longer existed.
  • In the Writ Petition filed before the HC, the Petitioner had prayed for the following reliefs:
    • Permission for terminating the pregnancy
    • To restrain the Respondents form taking any coercive action or institute any criminal proceedings against the Petitioner or any registered medical practitioner who oversaw the termination of the pregnancy
    • Direct the Respondent to include 'unmarried woman' within the ambit of Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003
  • The Division Bench of HC vide Order dated July 15, 2022 issued notice restricted only to Prayer C of the Petition, and no notice was issued with reference to prayer A or B of the said Petition, making them effectively 'stand rejected'. The HC held that since the Petitioner is an unmarried woman whose pregnancy arose out of a consensual relationship, her case is clearly not covered by any of the clauses of Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003 (MPT Rules) and, as a consequence, Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MPT Act) is not applicable. Thus, the HC denied the reliefs sought by the Petitioner.
  • Aggrieved by the Order dated July 15, 2022, the Petitioner filed a Special Leave Petition before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India (SC).

Issue at hand?

  • Whether an unmarried woman falls within the ambit of Rule 3B of the MPT Rules for termination of pregnancy under Section 3(2)(b) of the MTP Act, for a period up to 24 weeks?

Decision of the Court

  • At the outset, SC examined Section 3 of the MPT Act along with Rule 3B of the MPT Rules and then observed that the HC had taken an unduly restrictive view in interpreting provisions of the MPT Act. The SC expressed their belief that expressions in Rule 3B of MPT Rules, such as, 'change of marital status', should be given a purposive rather than a restrictive interpretation, and to that affect, the words of a statute must be read harmoniously with the scheme of the Act and the intent of the legislature.
  • SC opined that the Parliament by amending the MTP Act through Act 8 of 2021 intended to include unmarried women and single women within the ambit of the MPT Act. This is evident from the replacement of the phrase 'married woman' with 'any woman' and the phrase 'husband' with 'partner' in Explanation I of Section 3(2) of the MPT Act. By such interpretation of the statute while keeping the intention of the legislature in mind, the SC found that the parliamentary intent is clearly not to confine the beneficial provisions of the MTP Act only to a situation involving a matrimonial relationship.
  • Upon comparison of the MPT Act, before and after it was amended, SC emphasized that the phrase 'married woman or her husband' was replaced with 'any woman or her partner', and therefore concluded that there is no basis to deny unmarried women the right to medically terminate the pregnancy, when the same choice is available to other categories of women.
  • By placing reliance upon several cases such as, Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration1 , Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd) & Anr v. Union of India & Ors2 , High Court on its Own Motion v. State of Maharashtra3 and S Khusboo v. Kanniammal4 , SC noted that the judiciary has time and again recognized that a woman's right to reproductive choice is an inseparable part of her personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • Upon hearing the parties, SC was inclined to entertain the Special Leave Petition and was of the view that allowing the Petitioner to suffer an unwanted pregnancy would be contrary to the intent of the law enacted by Parliament. SC further held that the distinction between a married and unmarried woman does not bear a nexus to the basic purpose and object which is sought to be achieved by Parliament, which is conveyed specifically by the provisions of Explanation 1 to Section 3 of the MPT Act i.e., where a situation involves an unwanted pregnancy caused as a result of the failure of any device or method used by a woman or her partner for the purpose of limiting the number of children or preventing pregnancy.
  • In view of the above, SC passed an ad-interim Order directing the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi to constitute a Medical Board during the course of July 22, 2022 and, in the event that the Medical Board concludes that the foetus can be aborted without danger to the life of the Petitioner, a team of doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences shall carry out the abortion. SC further directed that such report must be furnished to the SC within a period of one week after compliance of the present Order. Thus, the SC listed the Special Leave Petition on August 02, 2022 for consideration of the said Report.

HSA Viewpoint

The SC by way of this Order has interpreted the provisions of MPT Act with a bird's-eye view by looking at the intent of the legislature behind the MPT Act and held that there is no legal basis to differentiate between married and unmarried women for the applicability of the beneficial provisions of the MPT Act. The present Order has laid down a benchmark which upholds the rights of women in general irrespective of their marital status, with regards to their own choice/ decision of terminating/aborting their pregnancy if they are of the opinion that they are unable to provide financially, physically, emotionally, or otherwise for the well-being and health of the child. The SC has held that it is imperative to consider the well-being of the women who is pregnant while deciding if the foetus is to be aborted or not. It is remarkable to note that the SC vide this Order has empowered women across the nation to have the right to take decisions to terminate their pregnancy and not be penalized for the same under the Constitution of India and MPT Act.

Siddhatha Singh v. Ajit Singh Bawa

High Court of Delhi | 2022 SCC OnLine Del 2007

Background facts

  • The landlord (Respondent) had given the suit premises on lease to the Tenants (Appellant) vide a registered Lease Deed dated December 18, 2010 (Lease Deed) for a period of 15 years, commencing from May 15, 2010 to May 14, 2025 to carry out authorized commercial activity like running a spa or any other activity.
  • During the subsistence of the aforesaid Lease Deed, a lockdown on account of Covid-19 was imposed from March, 2020 for the ensuing months, resulting in non-payment of rent. Due to this non-payment, the Respondent issued various legal notice(s) for payment of rent, even offering a suspension of payment for two months on compassionate grounds.
  • The Appellant did not reply to the legal notices but continued to stay and occupy the premises without exercising his right to terminate the Lease Deed, till termination of the Lease Deed by Respondent. Thereafter, the Appellant replied to the landlord's termination notice denying his liability by taking the pleas of Force Majeure as per Clause 14 of the Lease Deed. This led to the institution of a Suit by the Respondent against the Appellant before the learned Trial Court.
  • During pendency of the said Suit, the Respondent filed an Order XIII A application pleading that in terms of Clause 7 of the Lease Deed, the Appellant was permitted to use the premises in question for carrying on authorized commercial activity like running a spa or any other activity deemed fit or proper by it during the period of lockdown in dispute, and further, that in terms of Clause 2 of the same Lease Deed, the premises was never rendered 'unfit for use' during the period of lockdown in dispute. The Trial Court held that as the Appellant had failed to establish any ground of defence and he had no real prospects to defend the claim(s) of the Respondent and thus allowed the Order XIII A Application vide its Impugned Judgment.
  • The Appellant-tenant, aggrieved by the Impugned Judgment dated February 19, 2022, passed by the Trial Court in favor of the Respondent, has filed the present Appeal.


1 (2009) 9 SCC 1

2 (2017) 10 SCC 1

3 2017 Cri LJ 218 (Bom HC); (2016) SCC OnLine Bom 8426

4 (2010) 5 SCC 600

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