The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court requested that the 18-year-old be brought before them on Thursday but do not want her boyfriend, who filed the petition, to appear.
Less than a year ago, the Madras High Court ordered the Tamil Nadu government to take action against police officers who harass people from the LGBTQIA+ community or those belonging to NGOs that support them. But the Madurai bench of the same court has now challenged a gay man’s locus standi to file a habeas corpus petition for his partner, who is believed to have been locked away by his family. Judges PN Prakash and Vijayakumar questioned how the boyfriend could file the petition as they were not ‘married’ and told him not to be present in court when his partner is presented before them.
Abbas (26) and Ajith (18) [names changed] have been in a relationship for eight months. When Ajith’s family learned of their relationship earlier this year, they allegedly subjected him to conversion therapy and tortured him. Speaking to TNM, Abbas said Ajith was chained, beaten and subjected to shock treatment in medical facilities and undisclosed locations. “He came from his house to live with me on May 8. But the very next day his mother called him and lied to him that she would accept him and us, so he went back to his family. I last saw him. He was taken to Theni, Tirunelveli and other places, beaten, given medicine. Even the police were on his mother’s side, because she is influential,” says- he.
On May 11, Abbas said he received a call allegedly from Vadassery police threatening to arrest him. He also says he heard Ajith’s distressed voice during the call and thinks he was assaulted. However, when he called the alleged police officer back, the person on the other end of the line claimed that he was not a police officer and that someone else must have used his phone. When Abbas and his lawyers contacted the relevant police station, they denied making such calls.
On the same day, Abbas sent formal complaints to the SP and to inspectors at Suchindram and Vadassery police stations. On May 12, Abbas filed a complaint with the police online through the TN police portal. The case was assigned to Suchindram Police Station.
On May 13, a policeman from Vadassery contacted Abbas and allegedly hurled homophobic slurs at him. After this episode, on May 22, a police officer from Suchindram station called Abbas to be present for an inquest on May 23, based on a complaint by Ajith’s mother that the boy was underage. . The same night, Abbas was attacked by unidentified people.
However, Inspector Sailakshmi of Suchindram Police Station denied allegations that Abbas was ill-treated during a roll call. “The case is in the High Court and we cannot talk about it now,” she said. However, when asked about the case filed by Ajith’s mother, she said: “The age of the boy has not yet been determined. We have requested the documents.”
Meanwhile, while checking the status of the case, Abbas discovered that the complaint he had filed had already been investigated and resolved.
It was then that Abbas decided to knock on the court’s doors and filed a petition for habeas corpus, which was filed on June 6. However, it was not heard on its maintainability until June 22. Hemalatha questioned Ajith’s age and demanded proof of age, and the petitioner’s locus standi to file the petition, to decide whether the petition can be supported.
On June 29, when the case was brought to an emergency hearing, the bench of Judges PN Prakash and Vijayakumar asked the petitioner’s lawyers: “What is your locus standi to file this case, there is no marriage or… You say he is your friend Note that marriage between same sex couples is not legal in India.
When Abbas’ lawyers cited the recent judgment supporting a lesbian couple in Kerala, the judges responded by saying the case had “media coverage”. While the judges initially assumed that it was a suo motu written petition taken by the Kerala High Court based on media reports, the petitioner’s lawyer clarified that although the HC had intending to take cognizance of it suo motu, a lawyer for the petitioner advised the court of the habeas corpus filed.
The court has now ordered Ajith to appear before them on Thursday (June 30) – however, they said Abbas should not be in court at that time. “When the alleged detainee is in my room, the petitioner must not come,” the judges ordered.
“Either Ajith’s mother as well as her partner should be ordered out of attendance, or both should be allowed. Being present in many similar cases, I have seen the latter occur. However, this order in which only the partner is asked to abstain from being present is biased,” says L Ramakrishnan of the health and human rights NGO SAATHII, who also volunteers as a peer counselor with the Orinam collective.
He further adds that even if the case decides in favor of petitioner Abbas, there is an inherent threat to his life. “He was attacked by Ajith’s family at least twice and he was injured in the attacks. Now, even if Ajith is released, there is no guarantee that his family will drop this issue,” he says.
Meanwhile, Inspector Suchindram said she physically went to Ajith’s home, ensured his physical safety, recorded a statement from the inmate that he was residing with his mother in full grateful and that no harm had been done to him. She also submitted a statement allegedly signed by him and a video recording of him admitting the above. However, Abbas’ lawyers informed the court of a video received from Ajith and offered to submit it; in the video, Ajith is seen saying he was coerced into giving the above statements to the police, they said.