Delhi HC: Directs Parents to Compensate Daughter for Violating her Fundamental Rights

April 20, 2018

Case name: Dr. Sangamitra Acharya & Anr. v. State of NCT of Delhi

Date of Judgment: April 18, 2018

In this first of its kind case, the Delhi High Court has directed the parents of a 23-year old daughter to compensate the daughter for violating her fundamental right to livelihood and liberty guaranteed under the Constitution.

In the case at hand, the protagonist was forcibly taken away from the residence of her music teacher in Khirki Extension, Delhi with whom she had been residing since she turned 18. She was taken away to a privately run mental hospital and kept there without her consent.

One of the primary issues confronted by the Delhi High Court in the case was the Constitutional dimensions of the right of choice in the context of the rights of an adult female to exercise her full right to life and liberty under the Constitution of India.

The Court noted that the case involved interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1987 in light of the right to life, liberty, dignity and in light of the right to privacy and autonomy of an adult female, as guaranteed in the Constitution of India. The Court while condemning the circumstances and events in the case passed consequential orders fastening liability on parents for the above illegal acts and awarded the girl compensation even while leaving it open to her to seek other appropriate legal remedies for further reliefs.

Other observations made by the Delhi High Court in the case are as under:

  • That Section 41 (1) of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (cessation of authority of guardian) provides that the powers of the guardian automatically cease upon the minor ceasing to be as such[1]. She could decide whom she wanted to live with and where. Her parents could not have dictated to her where, with whom and how she should live.
  • That the Constitution of India implicitly recognizes the right to full personhood. The Preamble expressly recognized the right to dignity of an individual. Article 21 guarantees to all persons the right to life and personal liberty and protects every person from deprivation thereof ―except according to procedure established by law. Article 21 of the Constitution has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of India, over the years, to include many facets of a full and meaningful life.
  • That in a habeas corpus petition when the plea before the Court is that a person should be protected against coercive retributive action of her parents, for making personal life choices, the Court shall not hesitate to exercise its jurisdiction to grant relief.
  • Involuntary Admission in Mental Hospital- The procedure for involuntary admission under Section 19 of Mental Health Act is only applicable when the person has been found to be mentally ill as required by law and a satisfaction has been reached to that end. Admitting a person under Section 19 MHA merely for observation cannot be countenanced as doing so would be in violation of a person‘s rights to life, liberty, and dignity granted under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

In view of the aforesaid, the Delhi High Court directed the parents to pay compensation of Rs. 3 lakhs.

The entire case can be accessed here.

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[1] Mt. Naima Khatun v. Basant Singh AIR 1934 All 406

About the Author

Shilpi Sharan

- Shilpi Sharan is the Editor at Vakilno1.com - an Advocate with extensive knowledge in myriad fields of Law. She has a flair of writing and has legal publications in national and international law magazines to her credit. She focuses on legal research and aims at raising public awareness of laws in India.