Wife is Best Guardian for her husband – Bombay High Court

Wife is Best Guardian for her husband – Bombay High Court

On 3rd September 2020, the Bombay High Court has passed a landmark ruling placing the wife in a position as a Guardian for her comatose (in the position of coma).  The Bombay High Court thereby affirmed that a spouse could be the best Guardian for his/her spouse and thus, appointed the spouse of a comatose man as his guardian for making it easier for her to access her husband’s finances to help to bear the costs of the family.

The judgment was passed by Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Milind Jadhav while observing that there was indeed a lack of legislative clarity about the question that who could be designated a guardian of a person in the state of coma or vegetative condition. Thus, the court relied on the principle of “parens patriae” as evolved in reference to the case Aruna Shanbaug and appointed the petitioner as her husband’s guardian. 


The Petitioner Rajni Hariom Sharma is the wife of Hariom Sharma who is in a vegetative state, showing no signs of his revival from a coma. Apart from her husband, the petitioner has two sons, one of whom is a minor, and a mother-in-law suffering from ailments. Her husband Hariom Sharmasuffered a cardiac arrest while jogging, leading to sudden unresponsiveness. And was later rushed to the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, where he underwent treatment including surgeries for three months from which he could not recover, though his condition stabilized after three months.


Rajni Hariom Sharma, the petitioner was having a hard time with mounting medical bills and household expenses without hardly any income of her own. After her husband was discharged after three months from the hospital

He was discharged from the hospital on February 6, 2019, but continued to remain in a vegetative state. As per the medical advice, it was necessary to arrange all facilities like observation under trained paramedic personnel along with physiotherapy and speech therapy. And despite all of these, her spouse continues to be in a comatose state.

However, all the expenses incurred during this time were substantial as she had to create a well-equipped AC nursing room with amenities like a recliner bed, air mattress, and life-saving support systems. Further, a full-time nurse and part-time physio and speech therapist were appointed for the treatment. Additionally, other household expenses including her mother-in-law’s age-related ailments and children are fully dependent on her and she has the responsibility to maintain it all without any income of her own.

 When the petitioner requested the bank to allow her to put signature in place of her husband’s, it was turned down and she was advised to approach the competent court to get herself appointed as the guardian of Sharma.


The counsel for the respondents argued that though there was nothing to contest about the factual narrative of the petitioner, the maintainability of the writ petition was in question as the relief sought was in nature of a private relief, and invoking a public law may not be justified enough.


The Court, while accepting that there was no express legislation for deciding the guardian for a person on appointing guardians to patients lying in a comatose or vegetative state, the Hindu law could provide a basis for this, as the Vedic philosophy reflects marriage as a union of two souls for life and hence partners could be appointed as guardians of each other.

Advocate Kenny V Thakkar, the counsel appearing on the behalf of the petitioner thus provided that Mrs. Sharma was in the just position to be appointed as a guardian by virtue of being his wife of Sharma considering his comatose condition for over two years with no sign of revival.

The council also maintained that as there was no statutory provision concerning the appointment of a guardian for a person in a c vegetative state. Therefore, only a writ court exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution was the best possible way to sought and provide relief to the petitioner.


After hearing both the parties, the bench stated that “the state of being in a coma is nowhere comparable or similar to a physically or mentally challenged as is understood under relevant statutes and neither could be construed as a minor for the purpose of appointment of a guardian. It is quite evident that the relevant statutes relating to the appointment of guardians would not be relevant in cases associated with persons lying in a comatose condition or in a vegetative state.

Therefore, it was held that in such circumstances, there is no doubt that theoretically, the wife could be the best guardian for her husband who is under a state of incapacity or disability on account of being in a comatose condition or vegetative state.

In Saira Banu Muhammad Rafi vs State of Tamil Nadu, a similar case was filed before the High Court of Madras where the wife of one Muhammad Rafi sought a direction from the Court to appoint her as the guardian of her husband for managing his immovable properties as he was in a coma. The Court did so for the purpose of his wife dealing with his immovable properties and also for operating his bank accounts.

In Shobha Gopalakrishnan vs the State of Kerala, the Kerala High Court invoked its writ jurisdiction in a similar case. Perceiving that no remedy was provided under any statute to patients in a comatose state, it was held that the High Court would invoke its jurisdiction under Article 226, in such cases.

The Delhi High Court in Vandana Tyagi vs Government of National Capital Territory where the petitioners sought to remedy through their grievance against the State Bank of India for disallowing them to have recourse to the Public Provident Fund (PPF) account of their deceased father.


eStartIndia Team

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