In the present case of Uma Mittal and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors., the Allahabad High Court appoints wife as the guardian of financial assets since the husband is in a comatose state.
Facts of the Case
The petitioner, in this case, is the wife of Sri Sunil Kumar Mittal, the son of Late Visheshwar Dayal Mittal. On 22.12.2018 at 1:30 AM, Sri Sunil Kumar Mittal had fallen in the bathroom. He was found unconscious. Later, he suffered from a severe head injury, nasal bleeding and vomiting. His family immediately took him to the hospital. Subsequently, at 3:30 AM, the hospital discharged him after taking scans. Later, the diagnosis revealed that he was suffering from intracranial bleeding.
Earlier, he went to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow. After being in the ICU for fifteen days, there were no signs of any neurological recovery. Later, the family took him to Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi. He was discharged on 01.05.2019 from there at comatose state.
Two nursing staff from H.D.U. Care Unit were appointed to look after him. His son, Mr Raghav Mittal stayed together with him for routine check-ups. The doctors opined that the patient would remain in a comatose condition until demise. He has been in life support since the surgery at the home.
The petitioner counsel, Bidhan Chandra Rai, contended that the Reserve Bank of India, to help the sick and disabled, has issued circulars advising the banks to accept Guardianship Certificates issued under National Trust Act, 1999. But the circular was not applicable in respect of a person lying in a comatose state.
The counsel argued that the Court, in the exercise of its powers under article 226 could invoke the Doctrine of Parens Patriae. In accordance with this doctrine, Uma Mittal could be appointed as her husband’s guardian.
The counsel stated that no statute had such corresponding provisions. The counsel contended that there was no legal guidance for the appointment of guardians for a person in a comatose state.
The counsel for respondents no. 1 to 4 has not disputed the averments made by the petitioner. The counsel has filed a counter-affidavit, containing the medical report of the party. A three-member medical committee prepared the report, following the Court’s directions.
The counsel for respondent no. 5 made the following arguments. The party ought to have impleaded State Bank of India, through its main Branch. But the same has no bearing. Therefore, there is no substance in the raised preliminary objection.
The constitution does not provide for the creation of a statute to this end. There is no existing provision for appointing a guardian to a person lying in a comatose state. The Court can pass directions on the same under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.
The Doctrine of Parens Patriae originated in British law as early as the 13th century. It implies that the King is the father of the country. To this end, he is under an obligation to look after the interest of those who are unable to look after themselves. The idea behind ‘Parens Patriae‘ is that if a citizen is in need of someone who can act as a parent, the state is qualified to take on this role. This is necessary, as the individual may not be in a state to make decisions.
The Constitutional Courts may act as Parens Patriae. The conditions of an ailing family cannot limit the Court’s responsibilities.
While enforcing the fundamental rights of a party, the motive of the Court is not to please the warring parties. The Court’s power under article 226 and article 21 is essential in the protection of the rights of a human being lying in a comatose state. The Court is the ultimate guardian of a person lying in a comatose state. The Court also observed that it may provide adequate relief by way of appointment of a Guardian.
The Decision of the Court
The Court found that banks and other financial institutes will permit Uma Mittal to operate the bank accounts standing in the name of her husband. However, the Court stated that this will be subject to fulfilment of a few conditions.
First, Uma Mittal is to file a report with the Court every six months. This report must detail the transactions of her husband’s assets. Second, she is not permitted to sell, alienate or encumber any of the immovable properties. These legal actions cannot be taken by her, except with the approval of this Court. The same will not affect her right to transfer possession of the property for lease or rent. The Court held that these rights are subject to her fulfiling the requirements of being a Guardian.
The Court awarded guardianship only until her husband remains in a comatose state.
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