Days after Justice Samir Dave of the Gujarat High Court advised reading Manusmriti while hearing a minor rape survivor's plea seeking the termination of her pregnancy, he directed the state authorities to produce the rape accused before the court on Friday, 16 June, to look into the possibility of a 'compromise.'
According to the news agency PTI, on Thursday, 15 June, Justice Dave asked the survivor's lawyer Sikandar Saiyed: "Where is the accused? Any chance of compromise?"
"OK, I will call him. If he is behind bars, I may call him. Let me ask him… Let me ascertain from the boy… I have thought of some solutions. But I am not disclosing them. Will consider tomorrow," the judge said, as per PTI.
Advocate Saiyad reportedly told the court that he had tried his best to explore a compromise, but "the accused was not ready."
Under the amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, a pregnancy not exceeding 24 weeks can be permitted to be terminated after getting the opinion of two doctors.
The Manusmriti Controversy
Hearing the same case last week, Justice Dave courted controversy by referring to the Manusmriti and making an oral observation that it was once normal for 14- and 15-year-old girls to marry and give birth before they turned 17.
"Because we are living in the 21st century, ask your mother or great-grandmother, 14-15 was the maximum age (for getting married). The child used to take birth before the age of 17. Girls get matured before boys. 4-5 months here and there doesn’t make a difference. You will not read it, but do read Manusmruti once for this."
The counsel for the father of the rape survivor had requested termination of the pregnancy due to the young age of the girl. Justice Dave had remarked: "Girls mature faster than boys, so four to five months here or there doesn't make a significant difference."
However, the court later consulted doctors to determine if the pregnancy could be terminated as the fetus was over seven months old. The Medical Superintendent of Civil Hospital, Rajkot, was directed to conduct a medical examination of the minor girl on an urgent basis.
During the hearing, when the counsel for the father of the minor girl requested an early hearing as the expected delivery date was 16 August, the court made it clear that it may not permit abortion if the foetus and the rape survivor are in good condition.
"If both are normal, it would be very difficult for the court to order termination. However, if there is a serious ailment in the mother or the fetus, the court can certainly consider termination," it said.
The bench also expressed concerns about the possibility of the child being born alive during the termination and suggested that the lawyer start looking for adoption options.