A writ petition was filed before the High Court of Bombay, regarding an important issue of public interest. The petitioner was seeking a declaration from the Court to allow her to be the guardian of her husband who is in a comatose situation & discharge functions on his behalf.
The marriage of the petitioner, Mrs. Rajni Hariom Sharma took place on 20-02-1999. They have two children, Yudhi Sharma & Arjun Sharma one of whom is a minor. Besides that, the petitioner has a mother-in-law who is residing with her. Mr. Hariom Sharma has multiple businesses & he is the director of several companies having a share of either 40% or 50%.
On 15-11-2018, while jogging, he had a cardiac arrest leading to sudden unreseponsivness. He was admitted to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital & Medical Research Institute. Even after extensive treatment for 3 months, there was no improvement in his condition.
His health condition was stabilised, however he was in a vegetative state. He was discharged on 06-02-2019 in that paralytic vegetative state. Despite all necessary care alongwith physiotherapy & speech therapy, he continued in that state till date.
The expenses incurred by petitioner in looking after her husband, mother-in-law, 2 children & household is quite substantial. All of them are dependents & she has a share of only 10% in M/s Solus Security Systems, Private Limited. So, to look after her family, she has to act as her husband's guardian to safeguard his business & other interests. She has been advised by the banks when she approached them to get herself appointed as the guardian first.
Petitioner's Submission :
The learned counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted,
Respondent's Submission :
The learned counsel appearing for the respondents submitted,
Observations of the Court :
The court referred to Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v UOI (2011) 4 SCC 454 to understand the difference between a comatose condition & vegetative state. The court observed that patients in coma are in complete failure of arousal system, they remain unconscious & do not even respond to painful stimuli. While patient in vegetative state are awake but have no awareness of environment.
The court found that a person in such a state can neither be considered as a physically challenged person/mentally challenged person nor a minor. And so, no statute relating to guardian is applicable to a person who is in such state. And hence, it is well established that there is no legislation in India which provides for the appointment of a guardian to such person.
The court stated that Order XXXII-A of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 could have been invoked by the petitioner for appointment of guardian to a family member but instead a writ petition under Constitution of India has been invoked.
The court held that according to the Hindu Vedic Philosophy, marriage is a sacrament. It is the union of two souls. Both the halves, man & woman are equal & incomplete without each other. The wife is not only considered to be a Ardhangini & Sahayogini but also a Sahakarmini. She is a Dharmapatni i.e. under Dharma she is under an obligation to perform & discharge all the duties of her husband. The court even stated,
"There can be no manner of doubt, that conceptually the wife can be said to be best suited to be the guardian of her husband who is under a state of incapacity or disability on account of being in a comatose situation or a vegetative state.
A period of 20 years is enough to understand the stability of the marriage. And therefore there is no hesitation in accepting the petitioner as the guardian of her husband."
The court referred to a lot of cases & pointed out the powers of the high court under Article 226 of the Constitution. Under Clause (1) of the article the High Court has the power not only to enforce the fundamental rights of the citizen but also to issue orders or directions. Every court has the inherent power to make orders necessary for the ends of justice even by exceeding it's extra-ordinary jurisdiction, though such power must be used sparingly.
By applying the doctrine of Parens Patriae as dicussed by the Supreme Court in Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v UOI the court has to take the role of a parent for a citizen in need. So, the relief which the petitioner seeks under Article 226 of the is reasonable.
The bench appointed the petitioner to act as the guardian of her husband who is in a vegetative state for a limited duration for the benefit of such person & her status should be accepted by all authorities. The petitioner's functioning is to be monitored by either the officials of Member Secretary of Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority or through legal aid counsel or a para legal volunteer & report it to the said authority, thereby the petition was disposed.
Judge : Hon'ble Mr Justice Ujjal Bhuyan & Hon'ble Mr Justice Milind N. Jadhav.
Courtesy case : Rajni Hariom Sharma v Union of India & Anr.