The Kerala High Court on Wednesday dismissed the Habeas Corpus writ petition moved by a 52-year-old spiritual practitioner for the release of his 21-year-old spiritual live-in partner and yoga shishya from her parents’ forceful custody (Dr. Kailas Natarajan v. District Police Chief).
The Bench of Justice K Vinod Chandran and MR Anitha arrived at the decision based on the finding that the woman was not capable of taking a decision on her own.
This conclusion itself was based on an interaction which the Bench had with the woman during which the woman, as per the Bench, showed signs of vulnerability occasioned by mental disturbance.
“We observe that from our interaction with the subject the suggestion was of a vulnerability occasioned by mental disturbance, which persuaded us to refuse invocation of the extra ordinary remedy under Article 226,” the Court held.
The Bench also concluded that there were no signs of the two ever having lived together despite claims by them of a live-in relationship. There was no sign of her parents illegally taking her away. On the other hand, the petitioner himself was married and had two children, the Court observed.
With the remark that the woman’s initial brush with the petitioner through a psychiatric consultation has now taken a different turn, the Court reasoned that the woman was not capable of taking a decision for herself.
The Court also recorded that it had tried to persuade the woman to interact with a psychiatrist or a psychoanalyst so that the Bench could get an expert opinion. However, she refused point blank, the Court said.
Thus, after considering its own conclusions regarding the woman’s mental state after interacting with her, as also her parents’ account of obsessive behaviour and hysteria, the Bench deemed her custody with her parents to be the best in the circumstances.
During the hearing, the petitioner highlighted the woman’s brilliant academic track record, aside from pointing out that she is a major and capable of taking decisions for herself. The counsel for the petitioner argued the petitioner is “not seeking that the subject should be allowed to live with the petitioner, but she should be let free.”
On the other hand, the woman’s parents insisted that there is no illegal detention and that they were trying to provide psychiatric help to their daughter.
They narrated that their daughter, a brilliant student, had suffered a bout of depression some time ago for which the parents consulted the petitioner, a psychiatrist. According to her parents, in the guise of counselling and therapy, the petitioner insisted on solitary sessions with the woman, after which she developed an obsessive attachment to the petitioner. They also submitted that her obsessive thoughts were not normal and that she required treatment.
Narrating from a report tabled in pursuance of its previous order calling for information about the petitioner’s antecedents, the Court summarised as follows:
- The petitioner is a doctor, who shifted to the UK for post graduate studies in Psychiatry.
- After a short stint as a psychiatrist, he began practicing and proclaiming himself to be a Vedic Yogacharya.
- Converting the first floor of his family home into an ashram, he himself lived in a rented house with his wife and children, giving minimum attention to them. They sustained themselves by their own means, the report explains.
- His widowed mother, who lives on the ground floor of his house, reportedly expressed to the police her disapproval and suspicion of her son’s activities or so-called spiritual life.
- The report divulged details of a prior child sexual offence case he was supposedly accused of, but his name was removed from the list of accused after the girl in question retracted her statement. As per the initial account, the petitioner supposedly sexually assaulted a 14-year-old who was brought for a psychiatric consultation.
- The petitioner was also unwilling to disclose his personal and professional details, claiming that he had no source of income save fees and gifts from followers.
- Despite the claim, an inquiry revealed that there was no information as to who his followers are.
- In proceedings before Court, the petitioner insisted that the woman was his spiritual live-in partnerand she in her turn proclaimed her relationship with the petitioner as
- Despite the petitioner’s claim that there was physical violence, the Court found that there was no sign of physical violence upon the woman and that her allegations were very vague.
- After adverting to the report filed by the police, the Court sought to distinguish the case at hand from the facts that led up to the Supreme Court’s notable Shafin Jahan(Hadiya) judgment. In that case, the woman had married a person and converted of her own free will, while here despite a claim of a live-in relationship, there was nothing on record that demonstrated as such, the Court stated in effect.
- “We once again extract from Shafin Jahan to observe that from our interaction with the subject the suggestion was of a vulnerability occasioned by mental disturbance, which persuaded us to refuse invocation of the extra ordinary remedy under Article 226 since the subject was in the safe custody of her parents,” the Court reiterated.
- On the subject of the Court’s invocation of the parens patriaedoctrine, specifically in challenge before the Supreme Court, the High Court pointed out that the doctrine was not merely the power of the State to intervene on behalf of a child in child custody matters, but also could apply where the mentally ill were concerned. The Court then recorded that the woman was incapable of taking decisions for herself.
- With reference to the petitioner’s antecedents, the Court refused the contention that the woman was being tutored in spirituality. The Court additionally observed that the petitioner had breached the trust which the woman’s parents had reposed in him as a doctor/therapist, when he asserted that their daughter was his live-in partner.
- On these terms, the Court dismissed the petition.
- The petitioner had earlier approached the Supreme Court against an interim order of the Kerala High Court but the SupremeCourt observed that it wants to see what the High Court does, in respect of the habeas corpus petition.
- The Kerala High Court then proceeded with the hearing before releasing this detailed judgment dismissing the petition.