Ker HC | Observing the signs of mental disturbance; HC refuses to remove a 21-year-old from the custody of parents

Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: In an interesting case regarding custody of a major the Division Bench of K. Vinod Chandran and M.R. Anitha, JJ., refused to invoke parens patriae doctrine on observing signs of obsession coupled with hysteria in the detenue.

In the instant case, the petitioner, who was the counsellor and therapist of the detenue filed a petition claiming that the detenue, a major and a brilliant student, was competent to decide on her own way of life, therefore, she should be let free from the custody of her parents as the detenue insisted that she wanted to go with the petitioner. The alleged detenue was residing in her parental home and was aged 21 years, a major. The 52 years old petitioner alleged illegal detention of the detenue by her own parents on the ground that he had a live-in relationship with her for the last two and half years.

Counsel for the respondents, K.Suresh Babu argued that there was no illegal detention and the respondents were trying to provide psychiatric help to their daughter. Since, she was a brilliant student who suffered a bout of depression for which the parents had consulted the petitioner. It was alleged that, the petitioner, in the guise of counselling and therapy insisted on solitary sessions with the detenue after which the detenue developed an obsessive attachment to the petitioner.

The Bench noticed that the petitioner was already married and had two children out of wedlock. Also, the mother of the petitioner expressed suspicion over the activities of the petitioner and disapproved his actions. The petitioner was Post Graduate in Psychiatry from U.K, initially, he pursued the medical profession, but later proclaimed himself to be a Vedic Yogacharya/Instructor. It was alleged that the petitioner while working as a Psychiatric Consultant misbehaved with a 14-year-old girl and sexually abused her at his residence; hence, the Bench observed, the petitioner was not leading a socially acceptable life and had difficulty in explaining the means and goals of his spirituality.

Hence, the Bench while distinguished on facts with the judgment of Supreme Court in Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M., (2018) 16 SCC 368,   and assessed that the detenue was incapable of making a decision for herself as the parents of the detenue too had raised serious concerns of her obsessive behaviour. Also, considering the facts that parents of the detenue had initially approached the petitioner with their daughter for psychiatric consultation and their trust in him as a Doctor and therapist was breached to the extent of the petitioner declaring his patient to be a live-in partner; when he himself was married with two children; the Court held that there was no illegal detention at all. Consequently, the Court directed the detenue to be retained with her parents at her parental home. [Kailas Natarajan v. District Police Chief, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 337, decided on 20-01-2021]

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