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Madras HC allows woman to sell immovable property of husband in coma

IANS | May 29, 2024 03:15 PM

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has permitted the wife of a man, who is in a comatose state, to sell or mortgage his immovable property valued over Rs 1 crore and utilise the money for taking care of his medical expenses.

The court also ordered that the proceedings of the sale or mortgage could be used for the maintenance of the family.

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court comprising Justices G.R. Swaminathan and P.B. Balaji on Wednesday reversed an order passed by a single judge.

The single bench judge had on April 23 dismissed a writ petition filed by S. Sasikala of Chennai to appoint her as the guardian of her husband M. Sivakumar who has been in a vegetative state since early this year.

The petitioner had approached the court with a plea to appoint her as the guardian of her husband and consequently permit her to operate his bank accounts and if necessary, to sell or mortgage an immovable property owned by him at Walltax Road adjacent to Chennai Central railway station.

The single bench judge ruled that a writ petition could not be entertained for the appointment of a guardian, especially, when the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 does not contain any provision for dealing with financial aspects. He had asked the petitioner to approach a civil court for such an appointment.

The division bench of the Madras High Court led by Justice Swaminathan disagreed with the single bench order and said that the writ petitioner had already spent lakhs of rupees towards the medical expenses of her husband between February 13 and April 4 in a private hospital.

Now, even at home, he had to be taken care of by appointing a caretaker and availing the services of critical care nurses.

The petitioner’s son and daughter, who had attained majority, were also made as parties in her writ appeal before the Bench and had given their consent for appointing their mother as the guardian.

The division bench of the Madras High Court said, “After an interaction with the children of the appellant, we are more than satisfied that the family is without any means and that unless the petition mentioned property is allowed to be dealt with, great hardship will be caused to them.”

Authoring the verdict, Justice Swaminathan also said: “Taking care of a person lying in comatose condition is not that easy. It requires funds... The petition mentioned property belongs to Thiru. Sivakumar. It has necessarily to be put to use for his benefit. The State is not taking care of Thiru. Sivakumar. The appellant is shouldering the entire burden. Driving the appellant to move the civil court, in our view, is not proper.”

After setting aside the single judge’s order, the Division Bench appointed Sasikala as the guardian of her husband and permitted her to deal with his property which the Bench assumed would fetch over Rs 1 crore.

They directed the appellant to utilise a part of the proceeds to create a fixed deposit for Rs 50 lakh in the name of Sivakumar in a nationalised bank and withdraw quarterly interest.

The court also said that after the demise of Sivakumar, the fixed deposit would go in three equal shares in favour of his legal heirs -- wife, daughter and son.

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