“Those 20 days were the worst of our lives. Had my father not been released for another 10 days, we would have lost him forever,” said Ram Kumar’s son Ravinder.
For 20 days starting November 3, 2017, 72-year-old Ram Kumar was confined to the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) on three successive orders by a Delhi magistrate, in whose court Kumar, frustrated over the slow pace of the trial, had lost his temper.
He was released only on November 25 after his family moved the Delhi High Court, which kept the plea pending against the trial court judge, the Delhi government, IHBAS and its doctors and the police to consider the constitutional and legal issues.
In its final verdict Thursday, the Delhi HC apologised to Kumar and his family and said there was “egregious violations of the rights to personal liberty and dignity” of Kumar, particularly in light of provisions of the Constitution. The court expressed its apology to Kumar, a retired government servant, and his family for the unlawful orders passed by the magistrate.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and IS Mehta also directed that a token compensation of Rs 2 lakh be paid by Delhi government to Kumar within four weeks.
“My father lost his temper in front of the magistrate during a hearing of a claim case against him, in connection with a road accident that happened in 2007. He was frustrated at the slow pace of the case,” Ravinder said.
Then, the magistrate ordered, on November 3 last year, that Kumar be sent to the mental health institute. “This was not communicated to us. It was only on November 5 that my family and I found out he was at IHBAS. We spent the night of November 3 sleepless as he had not returned home from the Rohini Court. We went to the police station and made a PCR call, but he was not traceable till November 5,” Ravinder said.
On November 5, Ram Kumar was sent to IHBAS again for 14 days. “Then, an order on November 20, sent him to the facility for another month-and-a-half. This finally prompted me to move the Delhi High Court against the illegal confinement. During his time at IHBAS, he was not even given any treatment or medicine for his alleged mental problem,” Ravinder said.
The court, on Ravinder’s petition, found that the orders passed by the magistrate on three different occasions was “illegal and unconstitutional”, and ordered his father’s immediate release on November 25. Following his release, Kumar underwent a heart procedure on November 29.
On Thursday, the court said Kumar, “a heart patient, was subject to tremendous stress on account of his illegal confinement… In short, there was a cascade of violations that had a domino effect on Kumar, denuding him of his rights to life, liberty, dignity and privacy.”
The High Court has now asked the legal services authority to survey all mental health facilities in Delhi to see if there are other people who have been detained illegally.
The court also fixed a six-month time frame for the trial court to decide the case against Kumar.