Legal Status of Unborn Children in India

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Right to life is a very important and broad topic in the Indian constitution. There is a protection for both the unborn child in the mother’s womb and the growing child. In India there are many laws created specially for women and children. The laws gives more benefits to the children. The unborn child is also provided with the legal status in our Indian constitution. The unborn child were given a legal status in every category such as property, medical jurisprudence, law of torts, criminal law etc., There have been several critical issues which underlie the problem of right of unborn child. Even though, In India Article 21 of the constitution guarantees the life and liberty of every person, but it is doubtful if this would include the life off unborn children as the meaning is restricted by the use of the word person.

The Indian Constitution has recognised the right to life of unborn children under Article 21 as also recognised in several cases. unborn children rights are the moral rights or legal rights of the human unborn children under natural and civil law. There are many sections given under law for the unborn child. As everyone have the right to exist in this world, anybody restricting own growth can be punished. In the jurisdiction it matters on the legal rights of the unborn child in different countries as different countries have different laws. In this paper, the necessity of the legal rights for the unborn child is discussed and the right to life of unborn children is interrupted with the Indian legislation.


In India , the law provides the persons who are living with many rights and legal status from the earlier days. But nowadays the society changes by spooling and misusing the rights provided to the others. Child rights are that much more important in today’s life, as compared to that in order to protect that child from their unborn children in the mother’s womb some rights has been proclaimed in India. These rights are very necessary, they were given under the name of the rights of the unborn child. There are many rights provided for every person starting from the unborn children to the dead. The study of the moral and the legal rights of the unborn children or unborn is very necessary to consider each and every legal status of a person. The unborn child has many rights such as protection from the abortion, criminal offences, civil claims regarding property of the grandparents.

Many researches has many studies as per the rights and status given to the unborn child and legal personality in the constitution. Authorisation of Medical abortion denied the child’s rights as the human being to the recognition of the legal status as it denied the child’s entitlement of the legal protection. The term unborn and unborn children was used to disguise the humanity of the children before their birth(Rita Joseph,2009, p 249 ). If the unborn children had the same rights as the new baby, decisions can be made on behalf of the baby against the wishes of the mother so called court ordered care. Implying the lack of rights for the unborn rights and setting a precedent on the legal status of the unborn babies (Asim Kurjak , 2006, p 218). The injury caused to the unborn child at the hands of its own mother is also held with the legal responsible to that problem. The mother is under the criminal liability for prenatal injury caused to the child ( Rashid ).

The paper attempts to study about the necessary of the rights and legal status for the unborn child and compares the rights given to the unborn in the earlier days with the new laws updated for the protection of the unborn child. The main aim is to study the rights provided to the unborn under various categories and the legal status of the child.

Fetal rights :

Unborn children rights are the ethical rights or legal privileges of the human foetus[1]under regular and common law. The term fetal rights came into wide use after the point of interest case Roe v. Swim that legitimized foetus removal in the United States in 1973. The idea of fetal rights has developed to incorporate the issues of maternal medication and liquor abuse. The just worldwide bargain particularly handling fetal rights is the American Convention on Human Rights which conceives the privilege to life of the baby. While global human rights instruments do not have a general incorporation of the embryo as a man for the motivations behind human rights, the baby is allowed different rights in the constitutions and common codes of a few nations.

Numerous lawful specialists accept there is an expanding need to settle the legitimate status of the foetus .A natural person must be a living person i.e., must not be a creature and must be conceived alive to be positioned as a man in law. The special case to this device is that of a baby en ventre sa negligible (foetus in womb), who should be conceived for some reasons. A child in its mom’s womb can gain certain rights and acquire appropriately, yet the rights are dependent upon his being conceived alive. He is considered a man for reasons for parcel.

Such a child can assert harms for damage maintained while in its mom’s womb. A youngster not yet considered, can’t be esteemed to be a man, despite the fact that arrangement might be made for such creatures unexpectedly appearing by vesting property in trustees for them. The formation of restrictive rights for unborn people is represented by the administer against ceaselessness. That decide gives that you can’t put off vesting of a home past a more extended period than the lifetime of the transferee or transferees existing at the date of the exchange and the minority of a definitive unborn recipient.

Protection of the unborn children from abortion – MTP Act

The 1971 MTP act specifically says laws regarding certain issues such as When a pregnancy can be terminated , By whom it can be terminated, Place where pregnancy can be terminated, The punishments of violation. The major discussion in the MTP act is in relation that no pregnancy can be terminated after 20 weeks have completely over in any circumstance unless there is a life-threatening medical emergency situation to the mother, like in a situation of a threatened abortion. Hence, even if a mother is checked to have a baby with multiple defects struggling to live after birth, she will be forced to keep the baby once the time limit of 20 weeks has been crossed.

As of 2000 , among 152 countries 54 either banned abortion entirely on the religious beliefs or permitted abortion only in order to save the life of the pregnant woman.[2]

Reference of a case regarding life of the mother and the unborn children

Appropriate to life of mother vs right to life of unborn child

We get stuck with the decision of Supreme Court which permitted a 16-year-old assault survivor from Himmarnagar, Gujarat to have a premature birth done on the off chance that it was fundamental to spare her life. All the while, it overruled the choices of two subordinate courts – The Himmarnagar sessions court and Gujarat High Court.

The young lady had been assaulted by a specialist she had gone to in February for treatment of typhoid. She had been given a narcotic by the specialist and assaulted after which she considered. Be that as it may, because of the risk by the specialist to stay close-lipped regarding it she didn’t talk up. The issue became known when her wellbeing began falling apart and she was hospitalised. By then her pregnancy had crossed 20 weeks.

Indian law says that

All foetus removal cases in India are secured under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (as reexamined in 1975 and 2002). Premature births are permitted up to 20 weeks of pregnancy on the restorative feeling of two specialists. A portion of the components overseeing premature births are – danger of mental or physical crumbling of lady because of pregnancy, probability of an impeded or twisted kid, assault, pregnancies in unmarried young ladies younger than 18 with the assent of the gatekeeper, pregnancies that outcome from disappointment of disinfection.

Bone of Contention

The young lady was 23 weeks pregnant when she moved toward the Gujarat High Court. A body of evidence was enrolled against the specialist and Justice Abhilasha Kumari of Gujarat High Court guided the Sabarkantha locale organisation to deal with the survivor and pay her pay of Rs. 1 lakh. She was thoughtful to the young lady yet exhorted her to go for labor and give it for reception.

On account of this assault survivor, being the little girl of a worker, she isn’t in a condition to fiscally deal with the tyke. Henceforth, her dad moved toward the Supreme Court which coordinated that she be medicinally analysed by a board of four gynaecologists. The board found that having the tyke would represent an awesome hazard for her, as she is rationally and physically crushed and furthermore physically and restoratively excessively feeble, making it impossible to convey a youngster. The said pregnancy could open her to genuine risk of life.

Article 21 of Indian constitution

The issue starts the level headed discussion between the privilege of the kid to live and the privilege of the mother to experience end of pregnancy. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives the essential right of life and freedom to Indian residents. Nonetheless, life in India is respected to have begun at the season of origination of kid itself. In addition, by 23rd week the hatchling would as of now have framed appendages and it would add up to executing a tyke.

In the meantime, on the off chance that we comprehensively think about the importance of “life and freedom”, it would allude to the physical wellbeing of the mother as well as her general mental and passionate prosperity. A lady may confront neo-natal (post labor) wretchedness if there should arise an occurrence of an undesirable tyke conceived out of assault. To force a decision on this assault survivor to bring forth the youngster would have gone in opposition to this expanded importance of life and freedom. Additionally, it is exceptionally troublesome for a mother to give away a youngster in appropriation which she has conveyed in her womb for nine months.

Keeping in see the condition under which the young lady wound up pregnant, and the physical, budgetary, enthusiastic and mental repercussions of undesirable pregnancy, it is humanly appropriate to enable the minor young lady to go for end of pregnancy.

Tort law and Unborn Children in India, UK and USA

This section investigates the treatment allotted to the unborn in the Tort Law of the three nations. It additionally talks about the effect of the Born Alive Rule, which was the consequence of unsophisticated restorative information and a high level of prenatal mortality. Crude therapeutic innovation made it difficult to set up that a unborn children was alive until the point that it was conceived.

‘The inconceivability of deciding if and when a hatchling was living and when and how it kicked the bucket prompted the trouble of finding out whether a litigant’s wrongdoing was the reason for a unborn children death[3]. This is the primary motivation behind why prenatal tortious wounds endured by an unborn were not perceived as a common off-base. By and by the medicinal and scientific science circumstance has changed radically by making it conceivable to decide with relatively guided precision as toward what caused the damage, when the deformation, assuming any, set in and why or what was the reason for death. The creator keeps up that law ought to make an interpretation of the above advancement into giving lawful identity to the unborn from origination itself.

The section likewise explains upon the rising zones of Tort law that touch upon the unborn. Instances of wrongful passing, wrongful life and wrongful birth are new territories where new tort laws are developing. Courts have been thinking about various issues that were up to this point unfathomable for example, right of activity by the unborn against the mother for inability to give a sound womb; the privilege of activity against the mother for a messed up self-premature birth endeavour bringing about transitory or changeless handicap of the child; or the privilege of activity against the going to the doctor for carelessness.

Differences in torts law in the US and India with respect to unborn children

One of the unmistakable contrasts between the tort laws with respect to rights and insurance of unborn kids as followed in the United States of America and as under the customary law in India is that where the law in the USA has been attempting to accomplish a harmony between giving security to the unborn against damage and mischief and ensure that the privilege to life, freedom, and protection of the mother is maintained the law under precedent-based law is all in all a far separation far from those destinations.

Under the law in the United States of America, the demonstrations go by them make it clear that any individual making hurt an unborn or causing any damage or passing is at risk to be rebuffed independent of the reality whether he/she realised that his/her demonstration may cause such damage to an unborn. Then again, under customary law security of unborn casualties is considered of prime significance and isn’t especially disregarded however there is no statute or enactment that particularly characterises the sort of offences the unborn are ensured against and the breaks accessible to them. The law India still vigorously lie on point of reference and abandon it to the court’s attentiveness to take a choice on the outcomes of any damage/damage caused to an unborn or the rights accessible to them.

The law in India does not perceive an unborn as a lawful identity and henceforth cases and rights also can be related with the birth and not previously. The laws in the USA then again are sufficiently advancing that as was said by Justice Tom Parker, “an unborn youngster has a natural ideal to life from its earliest phases of development”[4]

Regardless of having strict laws shielding the unborn from any mischief or damage that could happen, the laws in the USA secure the protection and selection of moms to a similar degree. The law and the courts keep in account that no individual who is approved by the assent of the mother or by the law will be indicted for completing a premature birth, they likewise remember that a need additionally must be given to the mother and her choice which the state can’t mediate. The laws India then again, regardless of giving the arrangements to do premature births limit the demonstration to simply restorative needs and don’t offer space to put in the factor of decision of the moms.

Criminal law and the unborn children in India 

The section attempts to value the lawful position of the unborn in three Indian enactments viz. the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTPA, 1971), Indian Penal Code 1860 and the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994 (PCPNDT 1994) in a specific order. The last enactment has been quickly said. The section has been separated into three sections as needs be.

This proposition tries to build up that with a specific end goal to recognize fetal identity in Criminal Laws, it is important to criminalize that direct which harms or causes passing of an unborn youngster so the unborn gets insurance from origination until birth. In the Indian context it converts into correcting the IPC, 1860[5]to incorporate punishable crime, kill, a wide range of hurt and so on and endeavours thereof as material to the unborn. This might be effectuated by particularly saying that the term ‘individual’ in the Code incorporates an unborn baby at each phase of development from origination until birth.

In the wake of experiencing the different arrangements of law spinning around the baby in India, four stems that can be effortlessly recognized where the Criminal Law, regardless of whether it is a general Criminal Code[6]or a particular criminal law[7]does not act the hero (however it does as such for a grown-up). They are:

(1) it is certainly not an offense to debilitate to slaughter a hatchling,

(2) it isn’t really an offense to harm a unborn child

(3) it isn’t really an offense to slaughter a unborn child.[8]This is liable to the capability of lawful abortions.

(4) it stays doubtful whether it is a criminal offense to cause the embryo wounds from which it bites the dust in the wake of being conceived alive.[9]

Property rights of unborn children

There have been numerous conflicts and cases with respect to property privileges of an unborn child if a will said the exchange of property to such a kid while the proprietor passes away before the introduction of such a youngster. Here is a brief on property privileges of an unborn child according to law:

Privileges of Unborn Children Under Property Act

While Section 5 of the Transfer of Property Act says that a property can just to be exchanged to a living individual, Sections 13, 14 and 18[10]of the Act to manage the law to exchange property for the advantage of the unborn child. It says to exchange property to an unborn kid, an earlier “intrigue” must be made. This implies a trustee must be selected for the advantage of the yet-to-be-conceived kid. This “intrigue” must contain the entire of the rest of the enthusiasm for the property of the individual who wants to exchange the property. Something else, the exchange won’t produce results.

Section 13 says that there can’t be an immediate exchange to a man who isn’t in presence on the date of the exchange. It is consequently that the Section utilises the articulation “for the advantage of” and not “exchange to an unborn individual”. It is to be noticed that a child in mother’s womb is thought to be in presence as indicated by the law.

Shape a trust: The property can be exchanged to an unborn child however through a trust, not straightforwardly. On the off chance that a trust isn’t framed, the property must be moved as a profession individual and afterward to the minor. The unborn individual must appear before the passing of the last life domain holder. With presence, it intends to be in a mother’s womb and not the real birth. For a blessing deed made for an unborn grandkid which isn’t in regard of the entire enthusiasm for the property, the deed can be held as a substantial record as an ownership document.

Right of Unborn Children Under Hindu Succession Act

Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, manages the privileges of an unborn kid that is in the womb of the mother. The property privileges of an unborn tyke are administered by the way that if the tyke who was in the womb at the season of the demise of the individual who wants to exchange the property and who is in this way conceived alive might have an indistinguishable appropriate to acquire from in the event that he or she had been conceived before the passing of the property proprietor, and the legacy should be esteemed to vest in such a case with impact from the date of the demise of the intestate.

As per Section 20, an unborn child who has appeared will acquire just if—

(I) The youngster was considered at the season of death of the property proprietor, and

(ii) The child is conceived alive

The kid will acquire in an indistinguishable way from in the event that he were conceived before the demise of the property proprietor if the above conditions are met. Any tyke, male or female, who is in the mother’s womb at the time of the passing of the property proprietor is considered to appear according to law.

Right of Unborn Children Under Muslim Law for Property

There are no rights to the unborn kid under the Muslim Personal Law and a blessing to an unborn individual is void with the exception of in the event of Wakf.

Article 119A – Death or injury of an unborn child[11]

Article 119a deals with violations where the passing of or substantial damage to an unborn child or baby is caused. Under this article, an unborn child might be a baby in-utero at any phase amongst origination and birth. This offense should be dealt with as a different one and the blamed is given an indistinguishable discipline from would be given in the event that he had submitted the hostile demonstration (that prompt the damage or passing) on the in-utero child’s mom.

Note that the blamed can’t utilize his need for information of the mother’s pregnancy as resistance where the offense has been submitted unexpectedly. In any case, the charged can guard himself by demonstrating that the demise/damage of the baby happened while completing premature birth or over the span of medicinal medications, both of which had the mother’s full assent.

Four unique circumstances are secured under this article and their basic parts are as per the following:

a) Causing damage to an unborn baby

Components: That at a particular time and place, the blamed conferred willful homicide/automatic murder/kill/assault/debilitating/assault/attack of a predefined lady; or submitted fire related crime of the residence or other property having a place with her or known to be possessed by her. That the lady was pregnant when the blamed conferred his demonstration. That through his demonstration the denounced made substantial damage the unborn newborn child.

Note: ‘Real damage’ alludes to any cut, wound, scraped spot, deformation, consume, sickness, physical torment or capacity disability of a physical or mental nature, even those that are impermanent. It isn’t important to outfit verification that the blamed knew for the lady’s pregnancy or that he planned to harm the unborn tyke via doing the demonstration.

Maximum punishment : Forfeiture of all allowances and pay bad conduct, six months confinement with the maximum punishment

b) Killing an unborn newborn child


That at a particular time and place, the denounced submitted willful homicide/automatic homicide/kill/assault/mangling/attack of a predefined lady; or conferred fire related crime of the home or other property having a place with her or known to be possessed by her. That the lady was pregnant when the denounced submitted his demonstration. That through his demonstration the blamed caused the demise for the unborn baby.

Note: It is important to demonstrate that the demonstrations of the blamed were the proximate reason for the unborn baby’s passing. It isn’t important to demonstrate that the blamed knew for the lady’s pregnancy or that he expected to slaughter the unborn youngster via completing the demonstration.

Most extreme Punishment: Forfeiture of all recompenses and pay, shocking release, and three years constrainment is the greatest discipline.

c) Attempt to murder an unborn baby

That at a particular time and place, the blamed submitted intentional homicide/automatic murder/kill/assault/disfiguring/attack of a predefined lady; or conferred fire related crime of the residence or other property having a place with her or known to be involved by her. That the lady was pregnant at the season of commission of the offense. That through his demonstration the blamed made an endeavour to slaughter the predetermined lady’s unborn child.

That the denounced demonstrations added up to a reasonable advance towards satisfying his target and were not simple arrangements for the demonstration. That this demonstration would have slaughtered the unborn kid if unforeseen conditions had not mediated. That the charged had clear purpose to cause the passing of the baby when he submitted these demonstrations.

Note: It isn’t important to outfit verification that the charged really prevailing in his demonstration or that the youngster lapsed in-utero. The denounced purpose to slaughter can be demonstrated by fortuitous confirmation.

Most extreme Punishment: Forfeiture of all stipends and pay, disreputable release and 15 years repression is the greatest discipline.

d) Intentionally murdering the unborn newborn child


That at a particular time and place, the blamed conferred intentional homicide/automatic murder/kill/assault/mutilating/strike of a predefined lady; or submitted incendiarism of the abode or other property having a place with her or known to be possessed by her. That the lady was pregnant.That through his demonstration the denounced murdered the unborn baby deliberately.

Note: The denounced expectation to slaughter the child might be set up by incidental confirmation.

Greatest Punishment: The blamed faces relinquishment for all recompenses and pay despicable release and 15 years imprisonment. For more data on this article, please allude to the Manual for Courts Martial

Discussion :

From the above context, after discussing the rights given to the unborn child for the protection of the life and property rights , it is more clear with the rights of the unborn child. They are provided with the criminal rights to claim against the own mother itself, when her action comes to affect the life of the child though it is in the womb. There is a massive discussion over the past years regarding the rights provided to the unborn in each sections such as criminal, tort, property etc. Our constitution has amendments on the rights of the unborn and these rights were protecting the unborn child from the abortion.

Medical Termination Prevention Act prevents abortion in India , but there is exception in some cases which includes the cases such as any harm to the life of the mother by the growth of the foetus. In cases of any rape of the children at low age who got pregnant will be excused by the law itself and allows the child to abort the baby in standards of considering the age and the life of the child. These restrictions were properly implemented. There are many property laws for the newly born and the unborn child.

The grandparents can even directly transfer the property and the lands to their grandchildren though they were not yet born. This transfer will be assessed by the others until the unborn becomes legally matured get that property. The rights should be given to the unborn child so as to protect the newly born babies in India . The rights of the unborn child gets protected under the Hindu law , criminal law and constitutional rights. The unborn victims of violence Act and the foetal rights were made to protect the foetus.


The Legal status of the unborn child is necessary to protect the child even in the mother’s womb. The constitution should enforce the strict rights to the foetus that is the judicial sense relating the rights of unborn child. There is a change in the legal status of the unborn child over the years in criminal and civil liability. Miscarriage of the mother is also prevented under the fetal rights.

Past rights on the unborn child including the property is very much restricted but now in the present days the laws and the new amendments provides many legal status to the unborn child in the mother’s womb. The issues relating the surrogate mother were also made into consideration in the state of the mother’s rights in India. American constitution laid stress on the property rights only with more importance. The property rights in India will be provided legally when the property is directly transferred in the name of the unborn child. The Rights of foetus requires all the fundamental and civil rights under the constitution.

For more notes on Jurisprudence, click here.

References :

1) William J. Maledon , Law and the Unborn Child :The legal and logical Inconsistencies, volume 46, Issue 2

2) The legal status of unborn children ,volume 26 ,Number: 7 Harvard Law Review

3) Amit Pathak , Right to Abortion of a surrogate Mother ,2011

4) Sri Vidhya, Liability of a mother for prenatal negligence to her child

5) Rashid, Protecting the life and Health of Unborn Children.

6) Emadi Rango , Right to life of foetus- verification of laws in the context of female Foeticide

7) John Keown , Reason, Mortality and Law – Page no 530

8) Pieter William Smits , The Rights to life of the unborn child in international documents, 1992

9) Congress, Congressional Record- Part 9, page 6328 ,year 2014

10) Swati Bajaj & Vikram Seth, Unborn Right to life vis-a vis women Right to abortion : legal reflection.

11) Lily Srivastava , Law and Medicine page 73 , 2010

12) Deborah Mathieu , Prevening Prenatal Harm, 1995

13) Asim Kurjak , Textbook of Prenatal Medicine Page 218 ,2006

14) Rita Joseph , The Human Rights and the unborn Child- page 249, 2009

15) Richa Verma , Right to life of Mother Vs Right to life of unborn child , The Logical Indian ,2015.

16) Rights of unborn child in child jurisprudence ,2010

17) Roden, Unborn child as constitutional persons ,2010

18) Glanville Williams Textbook of criminal law (2nd edition, Stevens and sons limited ,1983 )

19) Transfer of property to an unborn child ,2015

20) Mamta K. Shah, ‘Inconsistencies in the Legal Status of an Unborn Child: Recognition of a Foetus as Potential Life’ (Spring 2001) 931, 937-38.

21) Avantika Goel, Legal person and its kinds ,2016

22) Jose Miola & Sara Fovargue , The legal status of the foetus, 2010

23) Surbhi Gupta , The property be transferred to an unborn child

24) Sunanda Bharti , Legal Personality of Unborn: a jurisprudential Analysis.

25) Abhiraj Thakur , Rights of An unborn child in USA and India- A comparison, published by Syline.

26) Ravi Kanojia , Journal of Indian Association of paediatric Surgeons, 2008!po=50.0000


[1] Though foetus and the unborn child has different meaning , it is used synonymously in this paper.
[2] Ravi Kanojia , Journal of Indian Association of paediatric Surgeons, 2008!po=50.0000
[3] Mamta K. Shah, ‘Inconsistencies in the Legal Status of an Unborn Child: Recognition of a Foetus as Potential Life’ (Spring 2001) 931, 937-38.
[4]Sarah Janie Hicks Vs State of Alabama CC-09-268 , CR-09-0642
[5] This particularly deals with the offences against human body in IPC.
[6] That is the Indian Penal Code ,1860
[7] It is Medical Termination prevention Act,1971 in India or in the name of Abortion Act 1967 of UK
[8] Sections of IPC as section 312( causing miscarriage) 313 ( causing miscarriage without the women’s consent ) 315 ( preventing child from being alive or causing it to live after birth ) 316( causing death of quick unborn child )
[9] Glanville Williams Textbook of criminal law (2nd edition, Stevens and sons ltd 1983 ). This matter remains arguable.
[10] Sections comes from Property Act


(Source: Juscholars Journal Volume 1, Issue 3)


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