The Punjab and Haryana High Court, on Wednesday (14th October), observed in a Habeas Corpus Petition that Women, who have attained the age of majority, are entitled to make their own choices and they can live wherever they want.
The Bench of Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi further opined that the Courts cannot assume the role of a super guardian to impose any restrictions on them.
Matter before the Court
The Habeas Corpus Petition was filed by a Father of two daughters (stated to be minor), for directing respondents No.1 to 3 to search for detenues 'A' and 'B' (names not being discloed to protect thier identities) at the premises of respondents No.4 to 9 and get them released from their illegal custody.
It was averred that both the detenues 'A' and 'B' are unmarried daughters of petitioner-Usman Khan.
It was alleged that the detenues ('A' and 'B'), who had taken amount and jewellery with them, were kidnapped by respondents No.4 to 9 on the night of 26.06.2020 from his house and illegally detained by them.
Vide order dated 11.08.2020, the Coordinate Bench of the Court directed the Registry to appoint the Warrant Officer.
Subsequently, the Warrant Officer submitted a report dated 21.08.2020 that both the detenues ('A' and 'B') were not found either detained or otherwise at the places pointed out by the petitioner.
However, the detenues appeared before the Court on 25.09.2020 with their Counsel and claimed themselves to be major and denied allegations as to their abduction by anyone.
Vide order dated 25.09.2020 the deteunes were ordered to be kept in Nari Niketan, Sector-26, Chandigarh till further orders and in view of conflicting statements regarding the age of the detenues, their abduction and illegal detention, learned Judicial/Duty Magistrate, Chandigarh was directed to record the statements of the detenues under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as to their age, whether they were abducted or illegally detained by anyone or left their home on their own as well as circumstances for the same and statement of petitioner-Usman Khan with regard to the age of the alleged detenues on the documentary proof.
In their statements they ('A' and 'B') told that both of them were raped by the sons of their maternal uncles and when they narrated the said incident to their father Usman Khan, instead of listening to them, he reprimanded them.
Thereafter, both of them were held captives by their family members, thereafter, their father tried to sell them off for money and tried to forcibly marry them off.
Due to said circumstances, they somehow escaped from the clutches of the above said persons on 27.06.2020 and reached Mohali. They expressed their wish that they do not want to return to their home due to their exploitation and abuse.
As per their version, they were not abducted and illegally detained and they had left their home at their own due to exploitation and abuse, inflicted upon them.
Both of them also mentioned that they have attained the age of majority.
In the course of hearing of the petition, the Court also interacted with the detenues who reiterated that both of them are more than 18 years of age and are major and that they were not abducted by anyone and they left their home on their own, and they want to live separately at Mohali and sustain themselves by carrying out the tailoring work.
To this, the Court said,
"…anyone of the detenues cannot be said to be minor. In view of statements of the detenues, who are major, the detenues cannot be said to have been abducted or illegally detained by anyone including respondents No.4 to 9."
Further, the Court said,
"The detenues being major are entitled to make their choice and to live wherever they want and the Court cannot assume the role of a super guardian and impose any restriction. Accordingly, the detenues are ordered to be released from Nari Niketan, Sector-26, Chandigarh and the detenues shall be at liberty to go to any place whatsoever as desired by them." (emphasis supplied)
The Court also said,
"Since the detenues have not been abducted and illegally detained by anyone and do not want to go with their father-the petitioner, no action is required to be taken on the present habeas corpus petition and petition being devoid of any merit is dismissed."
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