14 Sep 2023 9:55 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court while considering the scope of the term ‘enquiry’ by the Court under Order 32 Rule 15, observed that the courts cannot merely find a person to be suffering from a mental disorder based on a few irrational answers given by him.Justice P. Somarajan added the courts should adopt a more practical approach and seek medical evidence or expert opinion to determine their...
The Kerala High Court while considering the scope of the term ‘enquiry’ by the Court under Order 32 Rule 15, observed that the courts cannot merely find a person to be suffering from a mental disorder based on a few irrational answers given by him.
Justice P. Somarajan added the courts should adopt a more practical approach and seek medical evidence or expert opinion to determine their mental state to decide if they should be represented by a next friend or guardian in a suit.
“Hence, the court should adopt a pragmatic approach and if it is found necessary, call for further evidence including medical evidence, instead of jumping into a conclusion merely on the ground that some of the answers which were given by the person were found to be not convincing or rational. The procedure, then available, is to refer the parties to a Medical Board so as to obtain a report regarding any mental ailment, retardation or disorder or any impairment of mental ability to take a rational decision pertaining to his affairs or to protect his interest.”
Order 32 deals with suits by or against minors and persons of unsound mind. It provides for the appointment of guardians or next friend to represent their interest in a suit. Order 32 Rule 15 provides that even persons who were not adjudged as having unsound mind can also apply for next friend or guardian if the Court was satisfied after ‘enquiry’ that the person was suffering from mental infirmities and was incapable of representing his interest in a suit.
The Trial Court considered an application filed by a mentally ill person stating that he was unwilling to proceed with the suit through his next friend as mandated under Order 32. The Trial Court conducted an ‘enquiry’ and put some questions to the defendant and found that the answers were irrational and that he was incapable of doing his affairs due to mental incapacity. On this finding, the Trial Court dismissed his application against which he had preferred a revision petition before the High Court.
The High Court considered the ambit of the term ‘enquiry’ under Order 32 Rule 15 since it was mandatory to conduct an enquiry for the appointment of a guardian or next friend.
“The appointment of a court guardian or grant of permission to sue through a next friend without conducting an enquiry as mandated under Rule 15 cannot be sustained, as the compliance of requirement under the said Rule is mandatory and the legal position was very much settled by the Apex Court in Kasturibai and others v. Anguri Chaudhary [(2003) SCC 225].”
Justice Somarajan found that the second limb of Rule 15 was wide enough to include cases of mental retardation, mental ailment or any other mental disorder and not just for protecting the interest of persons of unsound mind/insanity/lunacy. These were applicable to cases where there was no adjudication by a competent authority and the mental state of a person can only be determined by the Court through an ‘enquiry’.
The Court found that it was too risky for the Courts to arrive at a conclusion under the second limb of Rule 15 based on court ‘enquiry’ on a finding that he failed to give certain answers rationally. The Court found that instead of concluding the mental state of a person based on a few questions, it has to adopt a more reasonable approach and refer the parties to a Medical Board for expert reports regarding the mental state of a person.
The judge added that the Trial Court could not have dismissed his application on ‘enquiry’ by merely questioning him and recording his answers. The Court found that the procedure adopted by the Trial Court to conduct ‘enquiry’ was insufficient.
“In the instant case, no such enquiry was conducted by either referring the petitioner to a Medical Board or for an expert evidence or by calling upon medical records, if any available, but simply jumped into a conclusion on examination of the petitioner by the court and found that he is not capable of protecting his interest simply on the reason that certain answers were found to be not rational.”
The plea was accordingly allowed.
Counsel for the petitioner: Advocate G.S.Reghunath
Counsel for the respondents: Advocates Ajit G Anjarlekar, M.Santhi, G.Ranju Mohan, Govind Padmanaabhan, G.P.Shinod
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 479
Case name: Gopakumar V Madhusoodanan Nair
Case number: CRP NO. 110 OF 2017
Click Here To Read/Download The Order