H.R. KHANNA, J.
1.This is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus by Gian Devi who has been ordered to be detained in Nari Niketan, Delhi.
2. Gian Devi petitioner was a witness in a case under Sections 363, 366 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code pending in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Sonepat against Ganga Saran, Ram Kali and Usha Rani. The allegation in that case was that Gian Devi had been residing in the house of Ganga Saran, who is the Vice-Principal of a college, in connection with her studies. Gian Devi developed intimacy with Ganga Saran and after the completion of her studies, she came to her father's house. Her father, Sheesh Pal Singh wanted to marry her with another person. Ganga Saran then came to Sheesh Pal Singh's house and took away Gian Devi. Ram Kali and Usha Rani were stated to have abetted the enticing away of Gian Devi. It was also alleged that after Sheesh Pal Singh had brought Gian Devi from the house of Ganga Saran he married her to Satish Chandra
3. During the pendency of the above case before the Judicial Magistrate, Sonepat, Gian Devi made a request for court protection. Applications were also filed by Sheesh Pal Singh and Satish Chandra regarding the custody of Gian Devi. The learned Magistrate passed an order on February 28, 1974 directing that Gian Devi be sent to Nari Niketan, Delhi and be detained there.
4. Gian Devi petitioner, it would appear was dissatisfied with the above order. She filed a petition for the issue of a writ of habeas corpus in Punjab and Haryana High Court. This petition was dismissed by the said High Court on March 18, 1974 on the ground that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the petition. Gian Devi then filed another petition for the issue of a writ of habeas corpus before the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High Court dismissed this petition on April 15, 1974 on the ground that the date of birth of the petitioner was April 20, 1956 and she was still a minor on the date of the order of the High Court.
5. Gian Devi petitioner thereafter approached this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution for issue of a writ of habeas corpus. The respondents who were initially impleaded in the petition were (1) The Superintendent, Nari Niketan (2) The Judicial Magistrate, Sonepat, and (3) State of Haryana. Subsequently, on orders of this Court, Sheesh Pal Singh, father of the petitioner, was impleaded as Respondent 4 and Satish Chandra, with whom the petitioner was alleged to have been married by her father, was impleaded as Respondent 5.
6. After hearing the learned counsel for parties, we directed yesterday that the petitioner should be produced in person before us. The petitioner has consequently been produced before us today. The petitioner, on our enquiry, has stated that she does not want to be detained in Nari Niketan and that she wants to go with Ganga Saran with whom, according to her, she has performed marriage.
7. It is the case of the petitioner that she was born on June 5, 1954. As against that, the plea of Sheesh Pal Singh, father of the petitioner, is that she was born on April 20, 1956. Whatever may be the date of birth of the petitioner, the fact remains that she is at present more than 18 years of age. As the petitioner is sui juris no fetters can be placed upon her choice of the person with whom she is to stay, nor can any restriction be imposed regarding the place where she should stay. The court or the relatives of the petitioner can also not substitute their opinion or preference for that of the petitioner in such a matter. The fact that the petitioner has been cited as a witness in a case is no valid ground for her detention in Nari Niketan against her wishes. Since the petitioner has stated unequivocally that she does not want to stay in Nari Niketan, her detention therein cannot be held to be in accordance with law. We accordingly direct that the petitioner be set at liberty.