In India to learn Vedanta, US citizen distances himself from family; Bombay HC refuses parents’ plea to evaluate his mental state

The son declined to give consent to a mediation process and the court observed that he desired to pursue the course unhindered and uninterrupted by the petitioners.

Indian Express/August 29, 2021

By Omkar Gokhale

The Bombay High Court recently dismissed a plea by the parents of a 25-year-old US citizen, who came to India to pursue a course on Vedanta at an academy near Pune in November 2019, seeking to assess his mental state by experts and have him interact with the petitioners. This was after the son declined to give consent to a mediation process.

The parents, based in the US, alleged that their son had stopped interacting with them since last year and there had been a sudden and alarming personality change in him. His behaviour was increasingly getting volatile with threats of bodily harm and life to himself, they said and apprehended that he was suffering from mental illness and needed treatment.

A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice N J Jamadar on Wednesday passed an order on habeas corpus (produce the person before court) plea by parents of the man, who had come to study Vedanta at an institute in Malavali, Pune in November 2019, under Mental Healthcare Act. The parents approached the high court after the efforts made by them to the officials of the concerned institute “turned futile”.

The judges interacted with the man for a “fair length of time” in a chamber through videoconferencing and “prima facie” observed that the differences due to ‘trust deficit’ between the petitioners and their son can be “bridged” by mediation. Directing the respective lawyers to explore the possibility of mediation, the bench posted the hearing to August 6.

During the next hearing on August 25, senior advocate Darius Khambata for the parents submitted that despite the refusal of their son to have a resolution of differences, his clients are genuinely concerned for his health and wellbeing and warranted direction to examine the man by a mental health professional.

After hearing submissions, the bench noted that prayer of habeas corpus had served its purpose given their interaction with the 25-year-old man. “In our interaction with him, we found that he was physically fit, mentally alert and fully alive to the developments unfolding around him. We also found that he has a strong sense of individuality and zealously guarded his right to live by himself on his own terms. He desired to pursue the course unhindered and uninterrupted by the petitioners,” the court observed.

“It seems the relentless efforts on the part of the petitioners to wean him away from the said course and surroundings have alienated him from them, further and farther,” the HC added and refused to accede to the prayer requiring evaluation of the man through experts.

Maintaining that it was “constrained” to dismiss the petition, the bench noted, “It is unfortunate that the son chose not to interact with or accessible to the petitioners.”

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