By Lakshmi N. Kaimal
The tale of Tawoi written by renowned Assamese writer Lakshminath Bezbaroa sets the background of a grim tale of infanticide where a man buries his three offspring’s alive on the words of TAWOI (Wise man). After the birth of the 4th offspring the man rebels TAWOI and demands to know why. At midnight Tawoi takes them where the bodies are buried, and they hear dead babies talk, gnashing their teeth at having been denied their chance to destroy their father. TAWOI’s ditktat turned blessing to protagonist in the Tale of Tawoi and so has it been for Meera Santosh Pal on January 2017 where the Hon’ble Supreme Court played the role of the Tawoi. But on 26th February 2017 the Court blatantly refused to apply its wisdom in favour of Savitha Sachin Patil, a rural woman who pleaded for medically terminating her 26-week old foetus with Downs Syndrome. The reasons attributed for non- interference being that there is no discernible thereat to the life of the mother even though the child born would be mentally retarded.
The finicky and divergent Judgments rendered by the Apex Court without constitutionally determining the issue as to whether the ‘decision to or not to terminate her pregnancy’ is an extension of the women’s right to privacy has led to a state of utter chaos where on every occasion the aggrieved person would have to knock the doors of the court. The approach of the court is pedantic and is a missed opportunity for the Court to interpret the reproductive rights of the women. Many foetal defects including Downs Syndrome are detected after 20 weeks. It also takes 2-3 weeks for the medical report to the finalized. Hence by that time the defect is found the statutory permissible limits are in every likelihood to be over. The children born with such a disorder is likely to have heart, ear or breathing problems. Bringing up such a child would be huge burden for the parents and would deprive them of all chances to lead a meaningful life. It is also an irony that the State which casts the burden on the parents does not share the responsibility of taking care of children born with disabilities also.