In January 2010, a couple eloped and married against the wishes of the girl’s parents. Her family filed a case of kidnapping and rape against the man, alleging that she was under 16 years old. The man was arrested and tried in court, while the girl — pregnant — was sent to a government-run shelter home. A month later, medical examination proved that she was over 18 years.
It should have ended there, but it didn’t. The Nirmal Chhaya home for women, where she was sent by the court, refused to release her despite the medical evidence on her age and the court’s acquittal of her husband.
She was forced to give birth in the detention centre, where she died during delivery. The shelter home then refused to hand over her body or the child to her husband.
It finally took two months and a court order for the man to get custody of his child.
Over three years later, the Delhi High Court has awarded Rs 3 lakh compensation to the man for the death of his wife in “illegal custody”.
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The court of Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Veena Birbal on Thursday directed the Delhi government to pay the money within four weeks to him and the child as compensation since “the unfortunate death… has deprived the newborn child of love, affection and care of a mother. It has also deprived the petitioner of his wife and her love, care and support.”
The High Court observed that the trial court acquitted the man after judging that the case registered at the behest of the woman’s father was false. “She should never have been detained by the respondents in Nirmal Chhaya. Her detention was, as it turns out, illegal. During her detention and illegal custody, she delivered a baby girl. But, shortly thereafter, she developed complications and died of septicemia shock.
She died while she was in the care, protection and custody of the respondents, albeit illegal,” the bench said.
The court also noted that the medical treatment given to the woman during childbirth was not adequate. “The chances of death of a mother at the time of delivery are very rare these days considering the advancement in medical science. We are also not satisfied with the overall care… provided to the woman,” the court held.
The court also observed that the Child Welfare Committee had not conducted a proper age inquiry as prescribed under the rules.
The woman’s medical examination was done only after a plea was filed by the investigation officer of the case.