PRAYAGRAJ: The Allahabad high court on Monday recommended to the Central government to consider enacting an appropriate legislation for appointment of guardians of persons lying in a comatose state, as they have not been provided any remedy in any statute. Such a guardian will take care of financial interests like bank accounts, investment, etc., of the person in comatose state, the high court added.
Disposing of a writ petition filed by one Uma Mittal and her four children, a division bench comprising justice Shashi Kant Gupta and Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery directed the registry of the high court to forward a copy of this judgment to the secretary, law, ministry of law and justice, Government of India, for information and appropriate steps.
According to petitioners, on December 22, 2018, in night Sunil Kumar Mittal, who is husband of petitioner Uma Mittal, fell in the bathroom and after a few months of treatment, the doctors opined that he will remain in comatose/vegetative state till death.
In the petition, it was stated that the family needed money for medical treatment and other necessities, however, the bank accounts were in the name of Sunil Kumar Mittal, hence, they could not operate it. Therefore, his wife may be declared his guardian for all such purposes and she may be allowed to manage finances in the capacity of his guardian.
The court, while allowing the petition, observed, “Petitioners are in dire need of money towards medical treatment of Sunil Kumar Mittal and for the welfare of the family as they have exhausted their financial resources in the past one and a half years.”
The court allowed Uma Mittal to operate the bank account of her husband and to spend money for medical expenses and for family welfare purposes like marriage of their daughters.
However, the court directed the petitioners to report to the registrar general of the high court every six months, detailing the transactions in respect of the assets of Sunil Kumar Mittal.
Giving this judgment, the court observed, ” Now the question arises that when there is no legislative enactment, providing for appointment of a guardian for a person lying in a comatose state, how the matter with regard to appointment of guardian should be dealt with. We cannot lose sight of the fact that we have been called upon to discharge ‘parens patriae’ (father of the country) jurisdiction.”
“The court under Article 226 (writ jurisdiction) of the Constitution of India can pass orders and give directions as are necessary for subserving the ends of justice when no remedy is provided in any statute in respect to persons lying in comatose condition,” the high court added.
The doctrine of ‘parens patriae’ (father of the country) had originated in British law as early as the 13th century. It implies that the King is the father of the country and is under 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 who can make decisions and take some other action, sometimes the state is best qualified to take on this role.