Kailas Natarajan, who claimed to have renounced worldly life of a doctor at the age of 42 years despite completing MRC (Psych) from London, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the Kerala HC’s decision to send 21-year-old Lekshmi by citing the SC’s Hadiya case judgment, where the constitutional court had given weightage to the right of an adult woman to choose her life partner while insulating her from parental influence even when her father had alleged that it was a case of ‘love jihad’.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan told a bench of CJI SA Bobde and Justices LN Rao and Vineet Saran that it was disturbing to note that the HC interacted with the woman, who wished to go with her spiritual guru, and yet allowed her custody to her parents.
The CJI-led bench said, “As a spiritual guru of this woman, you may have any interest in her. Can you show any evidence that you are her spiritual guru? Has she made any complaint to the police that she is in illegal custody of her parents? Sankaranarayanan showed complaints filed by the woman to substantiate the petitioner’s claim.
However, the SC said it would take up the matter next week. “We would allow the HC to proceed with the case. We want to see what the HC decides when it takes up the case on Tuesday.”
Natarajan alleged that the woman is in illegal detention by her parents and said, “the HC sent the woman to her parents and family members despite she having clearly stated that she was under illegal custody, that she was subjected to physical violence and that she desired to go with the petitioner, who is her spiritual live-in partner and acharya.” The HC had directed the police to conduct a detailed inquiry into the antecedents of the Petitioner.
He cited the Shafin Jahan (Hadiya) judgment wherein it was clearly held that the SC, in which the court had said “the social values and morals have their space but they are not above the constitutionally guaranteed freedom.” It had further ruled that “parental love or concern cannot be allowed to fluster the right of choice of an adult.”
The Petitioner said he is a doctor by profession, who completed his MRCPsych from London and later renounced worldly life at the age of 42, and turned to spiritual practice on Vedanta Upanishad. “He is married and with two girl children who are in his care and shelter, though living separately. Lekshmi, a competent adult and a well-educated woman, is the spiritual live-in partner and yoga shishya of the Petitioner. She has been put in illegal confinement by her parents and her relatives since October 26, 2020,” the petitioner said.
“Infuriated by her choice to practice Vedantic principles of Moksha, Sanyasa and divine yoga with the petitioner, her parents harassed and tortured her, which was evident from a number of emails she sent to the petitioner as well as to the Kerala State Human Rights and Women Commission (on which no action has been taken yet) detailing this. In addition to threats to her, even the petitioner has been threatened with honour killing by her parents,” he alleged.
“Lekshmi being an adult and well-educated woman (who also has a brilliant academic record and has won gold medals in her college) has her freedom to choose her own way of life and casting doubt on her personal preferences in any manner needs to be curtailed. Yet, the HC ignored her explicit choice and replaced it with its own opinion,” he said.