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Calcutta High Court declares elderly woman mentally challenged on daughter’s petition

The prayer in the application is for an order appointing the petitioner as the guardian and for taking care of Deepa Asani as a manager of the properties and estates described in a Schedule to this application.

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The Calcutta High Court recently declared person Deepa Asani a ‘mentally challenged person’ by exercising its powers under Clause 17 of the Letters Patent, 1865.

A single-judge bench of Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Deepa Asani.

The Petition has been filed invoking the powers of the High Court under Clause 17 of the Letters Patent, 1865, for a declaration that one Deepa Asani, alias Deepa C Asani/Deepa Chetan Asani be declared a mentally ill person and/or a lunatic who is incapable of taking care of herself or managing her property.

The prayer in the application is for an order appointing the petitioner as the guardian and for taking care of Deepa Asani as a manager of the properties and estates described in a Schedule to this application.

The applicant claims to be the daughter and the sole and surviving heir of Deepa Asani and one Chetan Laxmikant Asani; the latter died intestate on August 11, 2017.

The interim relief which the petitioner seeks is an order for holding an inquisition into the mental condition of Deepa Asani at a reputed hospital providing for such facilities and for a report ascertaining the status of Deepa Asani’s condition. Relevant documents of the petitioner’s Aadhar card and birth certificate shown to the Court establishes that the petitioner is the daughter and the sole and surviving heir of Deepa Asani and her only immediate family member.

Counsel appearing for the petitioner placed medical documents from December 2020 to March 2021 which show that Deepa Asani has been recommended admission and in-patient treatment. The symptoms warranting such recommendation indicate several manifestations which include not letting anyone enter the house, refusing to take proper food, and feelings of persecution. Deepa Asani has been diagnosed as suffering from bipolar, manic and psychotic disorders.

The medical advice in the documents shows an immediate concern for the patient being a danger to self and others and in the high risk category for suicide. A recommendation has accordingly been made for a monetary valuation and creation of the treatment plan.

According to counsel, the said Deepa Asani was admitted to a rehabilitation centre on 14th March, 2021 and continues to be at the same Foundation.

Counsel further said that the applicant was away from Kolkata from 2016 to 2020 for pursuing her education during which time Deepa Asani used to live in a house with her extended family and that her condition deteriorated with frequent episodes exhibiting psychotic and paranoid behaviour.

 The Court observed that,

Counsel accordingly seeks appropriate orders in aid of the final prayers in the application. Upon hearing Counsel and perusing The Mental Health Act, 1987 which was repealed by The Mental Healthcare Act of 2017, the Court is prima facie satisfied that the said enactments did not contain any enabling provision for a family member to apply for declaratory relief in respect of persons exhibiting behavioural patterns which warrant protection.

The 2017 Act provides for the rights of persons who are being treated in mental healthcare establishments and guidelines for the functioning of these establishments. Clause 17 of the Letters Patent for the High Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal, appears to be the only answer in such cases where High the Court has the authority to intervene in cases in relation to persons and estates of infants, idiots and lunatics within the jurisdiction vested with the High Court.

“Since the Petitioner is the only legal heir of Deepa Asani, this Court considers it fit to pass appropriate orders upon being satisfied, prima facie, from the material on record that Deepa Asani is indeed in a critical mental condition and requires sufficient protection from the applicant who is her sole surviving legal heir,” the Court said.

Also Read: Gauhati High Court pulls up Assam govt over vaccination of those without proper ID

The Court held that, it is relevant to trace the use of the word ‘Inquisition’ to The Mental Health Act, 1987, under which an application for judicial inquisition could be made by a class of persons for ascertaining the mental condition of a mentally ill, who holds property, for a direction for admission of that person in a psychiatric hospital. Clause 17 of The Letters Patent evokes the power of the High Court as a guardian protector to preserve the rights of those who are disenfranchised – by way of mental incapacity – to approach the courts. Barring the words which are seen as inappropriate in the present times, it is a wonderfully inclusive provision which empowers the High Court to take up the cause of persons on the periphery of society.

“There shall accordingly be an order directing Calcutta Pavlov Hospital to hold an inquisition into the mental condition of Deepa Asani and file a report in respect of the same within a period of four weeks from date. The arrangement and expenses for such inquisition and examination shall be borne by the Petitioner. The report shall be filed in court when the matter is taken up next which will be after four weeks from today,” the Court ordered.

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