“Parents are in all circumstances, not bound to concede absolute decisional autonomy to their children, even if they have attained majority”, rules the Kerala High Court [Read Judgment]
In what is likely to revive the ‘legality versus morality’ debate, vide a judgment dated 28.02.2014, in W.P. (Crl) No. 39 of 2014- a petition filed by a Doctor seeking a writ of habeas corpus for the production of his lover, whom he alleged was being detained unlawfully by her father, and to set her at liberty, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court comprising Justices Antony Dominic and Anil K. Narendran, has held that it is unable to accept as a general principle that parents are in all circumstances, bound to concede absolute decisional autonomy to their children, even if they have attained majority.
The Petitioner averred in his petition that he is a doctor by profession, who is presently working as medical officer in the District Hospital, Wadakkanchery. According to him, while working in the Elite Mission Hospital, Koorkancherry, he got acquainted with Ms. Greeshma Ullas, a fellow doctor, who was then working in the hospital as a Resident Medical Officer. The relationship developed into a love affair and they decided to get married. However, this was not approved by the father of Ms. Greeshma and that thereupon, he kept her in illegal detention, without even allowing her to report for work or to appear for the post graduate entrance examinations. It is stated that finally he received a letter from the detenue informing him about the illegal confinement and that her life is in peril. In these circumstances the petitioner had filed a writ of habeas corpus.
When the detenue was produced before the Court, it interacted with her in detail and was prima facie satisfied that there is truth in the allegations of the petitioner. The Father however alleged that he had relationships with other girls.
The Court deciding the issue as to the extent of a parent's authority over a major daughter and whether the restraints put by a father on a major daughter, would in the circumstances, amount to an illegal detention, which is a pre-requisite for a writ of habeas corpus held that a writ of habeas corpus, though a writ of right, cannot be issued of course, especially when a man seeks the assistance of the Court to regain the custody of a woman and also, that the strict rule of locus standi cannot be relaxed in such matters.
The Kerala High Court went on to hold “Ours is a society which has recognised freedom to every citizen. But then, these changes that we proudly talk about, and the liberties that are guaranteed to our citizens, cannot be stretched beyond limits nor can such freedom be made weapons to destroy our fundamental values or social establishments like families, which, undoubtedly, concede authority on parents to advise and guide their children. We cannot accept as a general principle that the parents are in all circumstances, bound to concede absolute decisional autonomy to their children, even if they have attained majority and remain helpless even in situations where their wards have taken wrong and immature decisions, which will be disastrous not only to the wards themselves but also to the family itself. Such parental authority, except in cases such as those pointed out by the Chancery Division and approved in Sadanandan's case, should be out of bounds for a writ court, because it is exercised for the ultimate benefit of the ward. It may be to the dislike of the ward, who may resist it and even turn hostile to the parents. But, such immature reactions should not be allowed to influence our judgment, since the ultimate aim and purpose of all these exercise is the welfare of the ward. This Court therefore should, except in extra ordinary situations, loathe interference in cases where the natural parental authority is exercised to the dislike of a lover or even the ward.”
The Court thus reasoned before proceeding to dismiss the writ petition.