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Calcutta High Court Invokes Clause 17 of Letters Patent To Appoint Guardian And Secure Property Of Mentally Challenged Person

Aaratrika Bhaumik
31 July 2021 5:55 AM GMT
Calcutta High Court Invokes Clause 17 of Letters Patent To Appoint Guardian And Secure Property Of Mentally Challenged Person
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The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday exercised its powers under Clause 17 of the Letters Patent, 1865 to declare a person named Deepa Asani as a 'mentally challenged person' and accordingly passed direction to secure her well-being and her property. The instant plea had been filed by the daughter of Deepa Asani who prayed before the Court to appoint her as the guardian and the manager of estate...

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday exercised its powers under Clause 17 of the Letters Patent, 1865 to declare a person named Deepa Asani as a 'mentally challenged person' and accordingly passed direction to secure her well-being and her property. The instant plea had been filed by the daughter of Deepa Asani who prayed before the Court to appoint her as the guardian and the manager of estate of her mother.

Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya opined,

"Clause 17 of The Letters Patent evokes the power of the High Court as a guardian protector to preserve the rights of those who are disenfranchised - by way of mental incapacity - to approach the courts. Barring the words which are seen as inappropriate in the present times, it is a wonderfully inclusive provision which empowers the High Court to take up the cause of persons on the periphery of society"

In the instant case, the petitioner had sought the Court's leave to hold an inquisition into the mental condition of Deepa Asani at a reputed hospital and accordingly get a medical report prepared ascertaining the status of Deepa Asani's condition.

At the outset the Court perused the petitioner's Aadhar card and birth certificate to affirm that the petitioner was indeed the daughter and the sole surviving heir of Deepa Asani. Further the medical records of Deepa indicated that she had been diagnosed with bipolar, manic and psychotic disorders.

"The medical advice in the documents shows an immediate concern for the patient being a danger to self and others and in the high risk category for suicide. A recommendation has accordingly been made for a monetary valuation and creation of the treatment plan. The concerned doctor has strongly urged the appropriate authorities to save the life of Deepa Asani by putting her in a rehabilitation centre", the Court noted.

Further it was pointed out to the Court that Deepa had been admitted to a rehabilitation centre on March 14, 2021 and continues to be at the concerned organisation. It was further submitted that her condition had further deteriorated with frequent episodes exhibiting psychotic and paranoid behaviour.

Taking into consideration the grievance raised, Justice Bhattacharya observed that the Mental Health Act, 1987 which was later repealed by the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 did not contain provisions that enabled a family member to apply for declaratory relief in respect of persons exhibiting behavioural patterns which warrant protection. However, the 2017 Act envisages provisions securing the rights of persons who are being treated in mental healthcare establishments and guidelines for the functioning of these establishments.

Opining on the scope of judicial inquisition in such cases, the Court observed,

"It is relevant to trace the use of the word 'Inquisition' to The Mental Health Act, 1987, under which an application for judicial inquisition could be made by a class of persons for ascertaining the mental condition of a mentally ill, who holds property, for a direction for admission of that person in a psychiatric hospital."

Accordingly , it was observed that Clause 17 of the Letters Patent Act is the 'only answer' in such cases wherein the High Court has to exercise authority to intervene in order to secure the rights of mentally challenged persons. Clause 17 has been enumerated below for reference,

"Clause 17 : Jurisdiction as to infants and lunatics-And we do further ordain, that the said High Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal hall have the like power and authority with respect to the persons and estates of infants, idiots, and lunatics within the Bengal Division of the Presidency of Fort William as that which was vested in the said High Court immediately before the publication of these presents."

Taking cognisance of the fact that the petitioner is the only surviving heir, the Court held that it is prima facie satisfied from the record that Deepa is indeed in a critical mental condition and requires sufficient protection from her daughter.

Thus, the Court disposed of the petition by directing the Calcutta Pavlov Hospital to hold an inquisition into the mental condition of Deepa Asani and file a report in respect of the same within a period of 4 weeks. The report has to be presented before the Court on the next date of hearing which is slated to take place after 4 weeks from the date of passing of the order.

Click Here To Read/Download Order 


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