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[O XXXII R 15 CPC] Mental Infirmity Can Also Be Caused By Physical Defects Rendering Person Incapable Of Communicating His Wishes: Telangana HC

Sparsh Upadhyay
23 Nov 2021 3:30 AM GMT
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The Telangana High Court has held that 'Mental Infirmity' for the purpose of Order XXXII Rule 15 of CPC, could also be caused by physical defects like deafness or dumbness, whereby a person is made incapable of communicating his wishes, views, or thoughts to others who are not acquainted with him.

Holding thus, the Bench of Justice Justice K. Lakshman allowed a 75-year-old petitioner to appoint his son as his next friend as the Court noted that he is suffering with various old-age ailments including paralysis and hearing problem, which was supported by medical evidence.

In these circumstances, the Court ruled that he was entitled to the appointment of the next friend.

The Case before the Court

Essentially, the Court was dealing with the case of a 75-year old petitioner, M.Sudhakar, who had filed a suit against the respondent seeking a declaration of title and recovery of possession and for rectification of the entries in the revenue records.

When the said suit was posted for evidence of the petitioner, he filed an application under Order XXXII Rule 15 read with Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 seeking to appoint, his son, M.Satish Kumar, as his next friend to prosecute the said suit on the ground that his health had been affected badly.

He claimed before the lower court that he was having a stroke in the brain and as a result of it, partially affected with paralysis and therefore, he was unable to hear even after fixing ear aid and even talk properly and that he was undergoing treatment for the said infirmities.

In view of the said infirmities, it was claimed that it was impossible for him to represent the case for which he sought to appoint his son as his next friend.

However, the Court below dismissed the said application by holding that the petitioner had not filed any record to show that he is suffering from paralysis. The Court also observed that there was no evidence of any unsoundness of mind, or he is not suffering from any physical disabilities affecting his cognitive skills.

With the said findings, the Court below has dismissed the said application, feeling aggrieved by the same, the petitioner filed the instant Revision before the High Court.

Court's observations

Referring to Order XXXII Rule 15 of CPC, the Court, at the outset, observed that it is not mental person able of protecting his interests, which is sufficient to unfold the protective umbrella under Order XXXII Rule 15 of CPC.

Such infirmity can also be caused by physical defects like deafness or dumbness, whereby a person is made incapable of communicating his wishes, views or thoughts to others who are not acquainted with him, the Court noted.

Further, the Court also observed that if such a person is before the Court in a suit or proceedings either as plaintiff or defendant, the Court has a jurisdictional obligation to conduct an enquiry as to whether the person is capable of protecting his own interests.

"If in the judicial enquiry, if necessary and if required, conducted with the assistance of an expert, it is found that such person is incapable of protecting his interests in the suit or proceedings before the Court, the Court has an obligation to appoint a next friend for such person, and if the Court, on the other hand, finds that the person is otherwise capable of protecting his interests without a next friend, the Court shall remove the next friend if already available and permit the person, who is alleged to be of unsound mind or suffering from mental infirmity, to conduct the litigation himself," the Court further added.

The bench particularly referred to an earlier judgment of the Kerala HC in Raveendran v. Sobhana (2008 (1) KLT 488), to observe that the scope of inquiry under Order XXXII Rule 15 of CPC is the assessment of the capability of a person either of unsound mind or suffering from any mental infirmity like deafness or dumbness, as to whether such defects or infirmities or weaknesses would render a person incapable of communicating his views, wishes or thoughts.

In this case, the Kerala High Court had held that mental infirmity in the context of Order 32 Rule 15 is not mental disorder, insanity or mental illness. It was observed therein that the weakness of mind due to any reason, making a person incapable of protecting his interests, is sufficient to unfold the protective umbrella under Order 32 Rule 15 and that such infirmity can also be caused by physical defects like deafness or dumbness, whereby a person is made incapable of communicating his wishes, views or thoughts to others who are not acquainted with him.

Therefore, the Court held that the Court below erred in holding that the petitioner herein had not filed medical reports and ruled that the Court below did not consider the specific pleading that the person who sought to be appointed as next friend specifically contended that he has no adverse interest to that of the plaintiff.

Against this backdrop, the Court allowed the petitioner herein aged about 75 years, suffering from various old-age ailments including paralysis and hearing problems supported by medical evidence, to appoint next friend.

In related news, the Kerala High Court last year held that persons having physical infirmities like deafness or dumbness which seriously affect their cognitive functions can file a suit through next friend invoking Order 32 Rule 15 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Case title - M.Sudhakar @ M.Sudhakar Rao v. Peerajee @ Reddy

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