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Supreme Court grants liberty to Kerala guru to approach HC again on detention of his live-in partner

The bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian observed that there was a big difference between illegal detention and custody.

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The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the petition filed by a spiritual guru challenging the Kerala High Court order dismissing a habeas corpus plea by the petitioner against her alleged illegal detention in the custody of her parents.

The bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices  A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian observed that there was a big difference between illegal detention and custody. However, it granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the High Court to seek a finding on the question of illegal detention.

The court observed that no categorical finding of the High Court has said the 21-year-old girl Laxmi has been illegally detained by her parents.The court said that it was obvious that a finding of illegal detention is a sine qua non for a habeas corpus petition. 

Senior Advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the petitioner has denied being married and has called her relationship with the spiritual guru divine.

She has been in detention and there has been no contact.

Chief Justice Bobde said there is a difference between custody and detention. If a child is in the custody of her parents, it cannot be said to be detention. Sankarnarayanan argued that an adult cannot be kept in custody. She is not a minor, she is a 25 year old, he said.

The bench further said,

“We are looking for a case of illegal detention. We are looking for a finding whether she has been illegally detained in her house. We want you to go to the HC and find out whether she is illegally detained or in custody of her parents. Mental illness is another aspect. We see the finding that she is in custody of her parents. There is a doubt about her mental condition.” 

Sankarnarayanan mentioned Section 4 of the Mental Health Act that says a person who is mentally ill will not be allowed to take her decision.The law does not consider custody of an adult or a spouse. She is a gold medallist and now they are saying that she is mentally ill, he added.

However, the bench drew an inference that she was not in illegal detention.

The spiritual practitioner from Kerala had approached the Supreme Court, alleging forceful custody of his spiritual live-in partner, challenging the Kerala High Court order denying her release from her parents.The petitioner has alleged that she was subjected to physical violence and torture by her parents, because she chose to practice Vedantic principles of moksha, sanyasa and divine yoga with the petitioner.

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