‘High Court is humane when occasion demands’

A 19-year-old girl ran away from home after she was reprimanded by her father for scoring low marks in her college examinations. The girl was secured after a habeas corpus petition was filed before Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. Not only did the court close the petition following submission from her father that he would not scold her again, it also constituted a committee to analyse the educational scenario in the State.

A panel of academicians was constituted by the High Court and it was asked to provide suggestions on formulating strategies to improve mental health, academic performance and resilience among children. The court also sought recommendations on mechanisms to provide academic and psychological support to students.

This was one such instance where the High Court Bench adopted a wider approach to habeas corpus cases giving a new insight into dealing with a domestic issue.

In another case, a boy was feared to have drowned in Vaigai river. The High Court Bench
suo motu
impleaded the City Corporation in the case to bolster search operations. The boy’s body was eventually fished out by a rescue team.

Advocate R. Alagumani, who has filed a number of habeas corpus petitions before the High Court Bench, says that on an average the Madurai Bench hears close to 1,500 cases every year. It is a very sensitive area which needs to be dealt with care. There are instances where even complaints written on postcards are taken up as habeas corpus petition by the court, he says.

When Mr. Alagumani filed a habeas corpus petition seeking direction for the State to find missing fishermen following Cyclone Ockhi, which devastated the Tamil Nadu coast, the State was made to act immediately so much so that it deployed more ships and even helicopters for search and rescue operations.

In the case of a missing baby of a visually impaired person, R. Muthumanickam from Karimedu in Madurai, the court did not stop with just directing the police to trace the baby which was stolen from Government Rajaji Hospital. When the police failed to trace the baby, the Court awarded him a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh. With this money, Mr. Muthumanickam built a small house.

In a similar case of child missing from GRH, the court directed the authorities to install CCTV cameras at government hospitals to prevent recurrence of child lifting cases. This habeas corpus petition filed by T. Meenakshi also led to the State police constituting sub units within the Anti- Human Trafficking Units in all districts to tackle child missing cases following the court order.

Advocate R. Karunanidhi, who also has filed several habeas corpus petitions, is of the view that if the cases are moved to special or specific wings for investigation, the result will be effective. He says the police are already burdened with a large number of cases. He points to a particular case in which a special unit succeeded in tracing a missing boy after the police failed.

Six months after the local police failed to trace a missing boy from Theni following a habeas corpus petition, the High Court transferred the investigation to the CB-CID (Anti-Human Trafficking wing). This move resulted in the boy getting secured from a savoury-making unit in Bengaluru. The court also directed a compensation of Rs. 20,000 to be paid to the boy. His mother, T. Poongudi is happy as her son can continue to attend school. “The compensation money has been invested for his studies,” she says.

Unusual cases

In the past, the Madurai Bench has disposed of several petitions in human interest.

A 19-year-old girl was set at liberty by the court as she wanted to live with her transgender companion after her mother filed a petition seeking her custody.

In another case, the court entrusted the custody of a baby to its minor mother stating that ‘minority of the mother’ could not be a disqualification to have custody of the child. The 16-year-old girl had eloped and married her 23-year-old boyfriend. However, the boy was remanded in judicial custody under the POCSO Act on a charge of marrying a minor. The families of the couple consented to their marriage once the girl attained 18 years and also gave an undertaking that they would take care of the baby.

“Keep it pending”

K. Arumugam, Managing Director of Social Justice, a non-governmental organisation, says that in such cases the court must not dispose of the petitions by merely directing the police to act on the petitions. They ought to be kept pending, particularly in cases where women and children are involved, till the detenu is produced.

There are instances where even complaints written on postcards are taken up as habeas corpus petition

Advocate R. Alagumani

If the cases are moved to special or specific wings for investigation, the result will be effective.

Advocate R. Karunanidhi

Source: Read Full Article