A person upon attaining majority age, or adulthood, is entitled to make her choice and courts cannot act as super guardians or assume the role of “parens patriae” as long as the choice remains, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
Parens Patriae is a doctrine under which a court acts as the provider of protection to those who are unable to take care for themselves, such as minors.
The comments came from a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in the context of a custody battle between a pair of divorced parents for their daughter. The girl told the court on Friday that she preferred to be in Kuwait, where her father was working, as she wanted to concentrate on her career.
Hearing petitions filed by the mother, the bench on September 1, 2017, had directed the father to produce the girl before it.
The bench interacted with her in court and sought to know her age. She replied that she was born on September 19, 1998. The woman also submitted that she was pursuing her graduation through correspondence from the Indira Gandhi National Open University and was an intern at a tech firm in Kuwait.
“For me, my career is important. I would like to go back to Kuwait to continue my studies. I’m not interested in relocating to India,” she said. The court remarked that she had attained “the age of majority” and “is entitled to make her/his choice. The courts cannot, as long as the choice remains, assume the role of parens patriae. The daughter is entitled to enjoy her freedom as the law permits and the court should not assume the role of a super guardian…. We say so without any reservation.”
The mother had alleged that the daughter was under the influence of the father and was not speaking on her own. She referred to some emails written by the daughter to her to buttress the charge. But the court said: “… We are of the considered opinion that as a major, she is entitled to exercise her choice…. What she has stated before the court, that alone matters and that is the heart of the reasoning for this court.”