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Courts Expected To Assume Role Of A Parent Where A Litigant Is Unable To Prosecute Or Defend His Own Case Properly: Punjab & Haryana High Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
7 May 2021 3:56 AM GMT
Courts Expected To Assume Role Of A Parent Where A Litigant Is Unable To Prosecute Or Defend His Own Case Properly: Punjab & Haryana High Court
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The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that Presiding Judges of the Courts are expected to assume the role of a parent in order to protect the interest of the persons, who are legally or otherwise unable to act or defend on their own behalf in the litigation. A Single Bench of Justice Anil Kshetarpal observed that whenever a Court notices a party to the litigation is unable...

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that Presiding Judges of the Courts are expected to assume the role of a parent in order to protect the interest of the persons, who are legally or otherwise unable to act or defend on their own behalf in the litigation.

A Single Bench of Justice Anil Kshetarpal observed that whenever a Court notices a party to the litigation is unable to properly prosecute or defend his own case because of legal disability or poverty or illiteracy, such Court is expected to assume the role of a parent to do complete justice.

The order states,

"Courts are expected to act as parens patriae, which means that the Presiding Judges of the Courts are expected to assume the role of a parent in order to protect the interest of the persons, who are legally or otherwise unable to act or defend on their own behalf in the litigation."

The remarks were made while lauding an Appellate Court that restrained the Petitioner herein from alienating the property of a mentally retarded man, whom she had married allegedly to grab his property.

The High Court observed that the Presiding Judge of the Appellate Court, by a well-reasoned judgment, very ably discharged the aforesaid function of a parens patriae.

Background

One Sarjeet Kaur, married to Jaswant Singh for 22 years, was stated to have staged a divorce in order to marry her husband's brother, Raghbir Singh, a mentally retarded man, solely to usurp his property.

As per the facts recorded by the Court, Sarjeet filed a petition under Section 8 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 as the next friend of her new husband Raghbir and obtained permission to sell his entire agricultural land.

Following this, Raghbir and his other two brothers filed a suit for declaration with a consequential relief of permanent injunction against Sarjeet Kaur and her former husband. It was alleged that the two played a fraud on Court with an aim to usurp Raghbir's property.

The Trial Court did not grant the relief of temporary injunction, however, the First Appellate Court reversed the order and granted interim relief in favour of Raghbir.

The instant revision petition impugned the Appellate Court's order on the below mentioned grounds, all of which were rejected by the High Court:

1. The first contention of the Petitioner was with respect to the maintainability of the declaratory suit on the ground that an application for setting aside the ex parte order passed in the petition under Section 8 of the 1956 Act was maintainable.

The Court held that proceedings under Section 8 of the 1956 Act were itself not maintainable because the aforesaid proceedings are maintainable only on behalf of a minor and not with respect to a person of unsound mind.

It further observed that the suit seeking declaration was filed claiming that the proceedings under Section 8 of the 1956 Act were the result of fraud. In such a situation, the Court is entitled to set aside such an order/judgment in any proceedings including any collateral proceedings.

2. The second contention of the Petitioner was that she got married with Raghbir in order to look after his person and property.

The Court found the case set up by the Petitioner to be "strange" and "unpalatable" inasmuch as the Petitioner claimed that she got divorce from Raghbir's brother by mutual consent after 22 years of marriage, when their children had also got married, as she could not continue to live with Jaswant Singh. However, within a period of 12 days, on the request of Raghbir's other two brothers, she married Raghbir.

"The facts speak for themselves and create a big question mark on the genuineness of the case set up by the petitioner and therefore, need no further deliberations," the High Court observed.

3. The Petitioner contended that nothing was placed on record to describe the extent of Raghbir's mental disorder.

The High Court observed that the Raghbir's brothers had produced on record a certificate issued by the office of the Chief Medical Officer, showing that Raghbir is mentally retarded to the extent of 75% and his intelligence quotient level is clinically below 50.

Still further, the Court noted, the Petitioner had herself admitted that Raghbir is mentally retarded to the extent of 75% while filing the written statement in the suit.

4. the Petitioner stated that sale of the suit land is necessary to utilize the same for taking care of Raghbir Singh.

The Court observed that the Petitioner has not produced any material to prove that Raghbir Singh is not being looked after by his brothers and nephews.

"Raghbir Singh is stated to be aged about 55 years on the date of filing of the suit. There is no material to show that Raghbir Singh was not taken care of by his relatives in all these years," the Court observed.

It added,

"In any case, if the petitioner apprehends that plaintiff no.3 [Raghbir] is not being looked after properly, she shall be at liberty to file an application before the trial court, which shall be required to be decided by the court by putting the remaining plaintiffs to terms."

Case Title: Sarjeet Kaur v. Harbhajan Singh & Ors.

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