Persons with physical infirmities seriously affecting cognitive functions can file suit through 'next friend': Kerala HC

Kochi (Kerala) [India], July 1 (ANI): The Kerala High Court on Wednesday said that persons having physical infirmities like deafness or dumbness which seriously affect their cognitive functions can file a suit through "next friend".

A suit filed by one Leelamma, a deaf and dumb person, through her daughter, was decreed by the Trial Court. The suit was filed seeking to set aside a partition and release deeds which deprived her of rights in the property.

In the appeal filed by her elder sister before the High Court, one of the contentions raised was that the appointment of a next friend in the circumstances of the case was clearly illegal in as much as the plaintiff was neither of unsound mind nor had any infirmity of mind entitling her to be represented by a next friend.

While addressing this contention, the bench comprising of Justice SV Bhatti and Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas said, ''We have no doubt that the word 'mental infirmity' has been used in Order 32 Rule 15 of CPC, to convey a meaning, which is wider and which would encompass something more than what the word 'unsoundness of mind' would cover. The term 'mental infirmity' has not been defined in the CPC, 1908. In the context in which the term is used in Order 32 Rule 15 CPC, it is capable of taking a meaning different from that of unsoundness of mind."

The bench observed that when the infirmity of hearing is to such an extent that no one, other than those closely associated with that person or an interpreter alone is able to communicate and reach that person's mind, then, that infirmity could be regarded as a mental infirmity for the purpose of Order 32 Rule 15 of the CPC.

Considering the facts of the case, the bench concurred with the Trial Court findings that the deeds executed as against the plaintiff through undue influence and fraud and the same is null and void as against the plaintiff and therefore the subject property is liable to be partitioned. (ANI)