CITATION –  2022 SCC OnLine 1321
CASE NUMBER –Civil Appeal No. 5802 of 2022 arising out of S.L.P. (C) No. 12612 of 2022  
 JURISDICTION Appellate Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India
RESPONDENT –The Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of NCT of Delhi and Anr.
BENCH – Division Bench of 3 Judges: i. Dr. Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J ii. A.S. Bopanna, J iii. B. Pardiwala, J
AREA OF LAW: a. Constitutional law,   b. Statutory Law
LAW APPLIED:i) Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India ii) The Medical Termination of Pregnancy   Act, 1971 iii) MTP Amendment Act, 2021 iv) Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003


The Petitioner was a 25-year-old consenting adult female who was in a consensual relationship. Later, realizing that she was 22 weeks pregnant after the petitioner’s partner deserted her, she then filed a case in the High Court of Delhi in the form of a writ petition to allow her for abortion, as she was pregnant and was a maiden.

Since the petitioner facing financial crisis and damage of reputation, she asks the Court to allow her to have an abortion. Three points were prayed by the petitioner before the Court: –

  • Permit the Petitioner for abortion under the assistance of a registered medical practitioners at any certified government or private hospital.
  • Prevent the Respondent from taking any step or criminal proceedings against the petitioner or any approved medical expert from aborting the pregnancy of the petitioner.
  • Order the Respondent to include unmarried woman under the purview of Rule 3B of the MTP Rules, 2003 (as amended on 21/10/2022) for cessation of gestation under clause (b) of sub-section (2) section 3 of the MTP Act, for 24 weeks.

The petitioner was provided no relief by the Delhi High Court by reasoning that only married women are allowed to obtain a termination of pregnancy, after 20 weeks under the MTPR, and the case does not fall into MTPR, 2003.

As per Rule 3B of MTP Rules, 2003, the classification of women who are allowed to undergo to undergo abortion up to 24 weeks is mentioned, were added with respect to the 2021 revision. It comprises of victims of molestation or sexual abuse or incest, adolescent, women with a change of pregnancy, women with bodily impairment, psychologically sick women, and women whose kid born may bear from such physical as well as insaneness and critically handicapped, and women with pregnancy in welfare system or emerging conditions feasibly proclaimed through State.[1]

A subsequent special leave petition was filed in the Supreme Court by the petitioner, which stated that because of no way of livelihood, and the humiliation with respect of being a single woman to be parent to her child with no father and to take all responsibilities alone, including resuming the undesired pregnancy would amount to huge and severe injury to her psychological health.[2]


  1. Whether Article 14 of the Constitution of India is violated by Section 3(2) clause (b) of MTP Rules, 2003?
  2. Whether the victims of marital rape be allowed to do an abortion, without the husband’s consent?
  3. Whether under the Indian Constitution Article 21 of the Right to life, is unmarried women entitled to end a pregnancy?
  4. When it comes to abortions whether does the clause C of Rule 3B of the MTP Rules and Section 3(2)(b) of the MTP Act cover unmarried women?[3]



Well-experienced Attorney of the Appellant, Dr. Amit Mishra, asserted that the partner of this single lady appellant had refused to marriage contract. She did not want to bear a child outside of marriage, as she was financially weak to do so. She had no source of income and her parents were farmers. Further, it was mentioned by the Counsel for the Appellant that his client had no sufficient mental capability to parent a child alone.

If she were forced to do so, then it might affect has bodily and emotional health severely. Also, she was incapable of dealing with the stigma coupled with spouseless mothers in society. Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules and Section 3(2)(b) of the MTP Act excludes unmarried women which are discriminatory and arbitrary. Thus, by discriminating against women on the basis of marital status is a violation, of Article 14 of the Constitution.


Senior lawyer and Additional Solicitor General Ms. Aishwarya Bhat, has given expert advice in expounding Rule 3B (C) of the MTP Rules Section 3(2) of the MTP Act[4]. To substantiate her claim she provided the following evidence that single or unmarried women in spousal relationships also come under the purview of Rule 3B(C)- A law’s text, its conditions, and the objective it aims to achieve, all should be brought into deliberation while elucidating evidence.

While defining the law, its assertion of goals and basis should also assist as directions. In view of how society has changed from the time they were passed, the elucidation of contemporary statutes is needed. Beneficial laws must not be interpreted exactly; rather they must have reasonable interpretation. A minor law should apply the principal law it was eventuated under. Suppose there are two possible interpretations, the interpretation that is consonant with the constitutional system must be utilized.

She also alleged that women have the privilege to have children and the entitled to free will over their bodies. And since women have the right to maintenance in both ways of relationships, “live-in relationships” are similar to marriage. Moreover, the offspring of such a relevance are conceded the right to succeed their parents.

The MTP Act is one of the national laws that do not differentiate between married and unmarried women. To oppose the allegation made by the petitioner regarding Marital status she mentioned that Rule 3B(C) ‘s definition of “Change of Marital Status”, must be renamed as “change in status of a relationship” to involve unmarried, deserted women as well.[5]


The major concern before the Supreme Court was to scrutinize the reasonableness of Rule 3B of the MTP Rules, 2003, in view of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, as unmarried women were kept out from acquiring secure and legal termination of pregnancies. It was stressed by the Court that the elucidation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and rules must throw back the present common phenomenon and not be restricted by customs concerning age or marital status.

Before the amendment of the MTP Act of 1971 mainly emphasized on married women, however, the amendment made in 2021, eliminated the differences between unmarried and married women. It conceded that all women are granted the right to lawful and secure abortions. Rule 3B of MTP Rules, 2003 was repealed for amounting to discrimination in the case of unmarried women, who may encounter the same obstacles and situations as married women.

Section 3(2)(b) of the MTP Act[6], accompanying with Rule 3B, the main purpose was to allow termination of pregnancies between 20 to 24 weeks when the pregnancy became uninvited because of charging situations of the woman.

It has been seen that unsecured abortions may lead to grave outcomes compared to lawful abortions carried out by Expert Medical Practitioners. A woman’s right to choose whether to raise a child or terminate her pregnancy lies with regard to the region of privacy. Also, in the case of Suchitha Srivastava Vs. Chandigarh Administration[7], the Court clearly acknowledged the notion of reproductive choice.


Under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution[8], the Court held that the right of dignity, reproductive choice, and privacy is provided to unmarried women the free will to opt either to raise or not to raise a child, equivalent to the privileged authorities of a married women[9]. It is pronounced by the judgment of the Supreme Court, that the term “reproductive autonomy”, exactly means a person’s capacity to make their decisions freely concerning pregnancy, child raising, and contraception use. It encloses several rights, including the right to get teaching and knowledge on sexual health and contraception, and the right to have a secure and lawful abortion. These rights must be freely made use of and without any kind of pressure. Thus, women must have the privilege to make their own decisions regarding the termination of pregnancy without outside intrusion.[10]


The judgment made by the Court totally neglects the punishing of the true father of the unborn baby, as an act of that person that led to the pregnancy of the woman is actually an act of committing rape. He is also responsible for the abortion and thus he must be punished under Section 493 of IPC for cohabitation caused by a man deceitful of inducing a belief of lawful marriage.[11] The judgment nowhere mentioned anything about the crime caused to the woman, the act that has made her mentally sick and the Court had to allow the abortion.

The Court must look into every aspect of the case, by permitting abortion does not to come to an end, the person responsible for the pregnancy of the woman must be punished for committing rape, then only it satisfies that complete justice is delivered to the woman. As her life is destroyed and her dignity is damaged thus difficult for her to live in the society as well as get married to another person and lead a happy life. Thus, the man is accused of rape and must be punished for his illegal act.


The Supreme Court in this case, X Vs. The Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare department, Government of NCT of Delhi, and Anr.,[12] made a voluntary interpretation instead of a restrictive interpretation. The order of the Court is observed as significant due to the modern view.

The main objective of this ruling is to essentially raise the significance of the right to dignity and privacy assured under Article 21 of the Constitution, as well as the bodily and reproductive autonomy of women. As per Article 21, both married and unmarried women are fairly eligible to decide freely whether or not to have children.

The term “mental health” was broadly interpreted by the Court, as enclosing more than, besides the lack of mental disablement or sickness. The Court stated that an unwanted pregnancy can be regarded as harmful to mental well-being, as per section 3(2)(b) of the MTP Act. One more notable pronouncement by the bench was that the Court denied the concept of the difference between the term ‘rape’ of an unmarried woman, by a man and that of a married woman by her own husband, also the presumption that a husband cannot do rape on his wife. Therefore, it was held that the term ‘rape’ under Rule 3B of the MTP Act cover “marital rape” also.[13] Thus, the order passed is an important turning point concerning granting women’s right to their reproductive and physical autonomy.



[1] Case comment: X versus the principal secretary, health and family …, https://jlrjs.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/70.-Aditi-Shree.pdf (last visited Nov 18, 2023).

[2] X V. principal secretary, Health and Family Welfare, govt of NCT Delhi – Legal Vidhiya Legal Vidhiya – (2023), https://legalvidhiya.com/x-v-principal-secretary-health-and-family-welfare-govt-of-nct-delhi/  (last visited Nov 18, 2023).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Rajya Sabha passes the medical termination of pregnancy (amendment) Bill, 2021, Press Information Bureau, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1705381 (last visited Nov 20, 2023).

[5] Supremo amicus X versus the principal family welfare of Delhi & Anr, https://supremoamicus.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Rashmi-Singh-Shreya-Singh.pdf (last visited Dec 7, 2023).

[6] Bhumika Indulia et al., The emerging dimensions of medical termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 SCC Blog (2023), https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2023/02/13/the-emerging-dimensions-of-medical-termination-of-pregnancy-act-1971/ (last visited Nov 20, 2023).

[7] Year, Suchita Srivastava vs. Chandigarh Administration, https://privacylibrary.ccgnlud.org/case/suchita-srivastava-vs-chandigarh-administration#:~:text=Case%20Brief&text=The%20Supreme%20Court%20stayed%20the,of%20her%20right%20to%20privacy. (last visited Nov 20, 2023).

[8] Ganesh Makam, Article 21 & Abortion SSRN (2023), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4338917#:~:text=The%20Supreme%20Court%20has%20recognized,to%20make%20informed%2C%20free%2C%20and (last visited Nov 20, 2023).


[10] X V. the principal secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department case analysis Law Wire (2023),https://lawwire.in/x-v-the-principal-secretary-health-and-family-welfare-department-case-analysis/#:~:text=The%20Principal%20Secretary%2C%20Health%20and%20Family%20Welfare%20Department%2C%20Govt.,Medical%20Termination%20of%20Pregnancy)%20Rules.  (last visited Nov 18, 2023).

[11] Makent, #IPC section 493 – cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage: Indian kanoon Lawtendo.com, https://www.lawtendo.com/indian-kanoon/ipc/section-493 (last visited Dec 7, 2023).

[12] Id.at. 4