Hospitals Must Provide Medical Treatment to Pregnant Minors Without Requiring Police Complaint: Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court asserts hospitals can't refuse treatment to pregnant minors due to absence of police complaint. Case involved consensual relations between two minors, emphasizing equal access to medical care.

The Bombay High Court recently made a significant ruling affirming the right of a pregnant minor girl to medical treatment, regardless of the absence of a filed police complaint concerning her situation. In a case involving a 17-year-old pregnant minor who chose not to pursue criminal proceedings against her partner, also a minor, the Court underscored that hospitals cannot demand a police complaint as a prerequisite for providing medical care.

The Division Bench comprising Justices GS Kulkarni and Firdosh Pooniwalla delivered this observation in response to the aforementioned case, where the pregnant minor expressed her reluctance to initiate criminal action against her partner, citing consensual relations.

"In these circumstances, in our opinion, there cannot be an insistence from any medical centers or hospitals, that nonetheless, the petitioner (minor girl's father) should register a police complaint as a condition to receive medical treatment. Merely for the reason that there is no police complaint, the petitioner’s daughter cannot be denied medical aid," the Court remarked in its April 10 order.

The case involved legal complexities regarding sexual relations involving minors, potentially constituting statutory rape under Indian law, particularly if one partner is an adult. Nevertheless, in this instance, both parties were minors, and due to the minor girl's assertion of consensual relations and her refusal to disclose her partner's identity, no criminal case was lodged.

However, despite these circumstances, medical facilities she approached insisted on the presentation of a police complaint before providing treatment. Consequently, she petitioned the High Court through her father, arguing against the denial of medical aid, citing her rights under Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to life.

The government pleader, Poornima Kantharia, assured the Court that the girl could receive medical treatment at the State-run JJ Hospital without disclosing her identity. Kantharia proposed that the girl submit a formal statement expressing her decision not to file a police complaint, which could be in the form of an Emergency Police Report (EPR). The Court accepted this proposal, directing the petitioner's counsel to furnish the statement to Kantharia for sealing and safekeeping, to be utilized with court permission as necessary.

The Court further instructed the dean of JJ Hospital to ensure the confidentiality of the girl's identity and provide comprehensive medical care throughout her pregnancy and post-delivery period.

Highlighting the constitutional significance of the right to medical aid under Article 21, the Court emphasized that no individual should be deprived of medical treatment, particularly in such circumstances. The ruling underscored the obligation of society to uphold the right to life by facilitating access to appropriate medical care.

Advocates Nigel Quraishy and Dhananjay Deshmukh represented the petitioner, while Government Pleader Poornima Kantharia and Additional Government Pleader Pooja Patil appeared for the State.