New Delhi, January 18: The Supreme Court on Monday questioned a Kerala-based man seeking the release of a 21-year-old woman, who he claimed was his “spiritual live-in partner,” from the “illegal custody” of her parents and family.

He said he was her “spiritual guru.” The man said she was being detained and subjected to physical violence for considering him as her “acharya” and expressing her intention to go with him.

“What is the evidence on record to show that you are a spiritual guru, and her spiritual guru?” Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde, heading a three-judge Bench, asked the man’s lawyers, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan and advocate A. Karthik, The Hindu reported.

The man had appealed to the apex court against a Kerala High Court order of January 4 on his habeas corpus petition.

Sankaranarayanan submitted that the woman had appeared before the High Court to clearly state that she wanted to join the man. Despite this, the High Court had given her into her parents’ custody.

“The volition of two adults is being questioned here,” Sankaranarayanan submitted.

He said the High Court had, while hearing the habeas corpus petition, took into consideration social and moral values. It had “simply dismissed” her fears of physical violence at the hands of her family if she returned to them.

The senior lawyer referred to the Hadiya case judgment in which the apex court had noted that “social values and morals have their space but they are not above the constitutionally granted freedom … Parental love or concern cannot be allowed to fluster the right of choice of an adult.”

He referred to another Supreme Court precedent on individual adult choice, which said no fetters could be placed upon an adult’s choice of the person with whom she is to stay nor can any restriction be imposed regarding the place where she should stay.

“But has she made a complaint to the police that she is being illegally detained?” the CJI asked.

In her petition, the man alleged that the police had questioned her modesty. Her SIM card, ATM card and other personal belongings were taken from her, and she was not allowed to leave home independently.

“Infuriated that the woman chose to practice the Vedantic principles of moksha, sanyasa and divine yoga with the petitioner, her parents and family resorted to harassing and torturing her. This is evident from the emails sent by her to the petitioner as well as to the Kerala State Human Rights and Women Commissions. The woman has been threatened with honour killing,” the man claimed.

The man said he was a doctor who renounced worldly life at 42 and turned to spiritual practice on Vedanta Upanishad. He said he was married with two children who were in his care and shelter, though living separately.

The Bench finally listed the case for next week while asking the High Court to go ahead and determine the petition pending before it.

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