Indian man loses long legal battle over his own birth
Rajesh Laljibhai Patel’s mother launched a lawsuit against the government of India’s western Gujarat state two years after he was born in 1985.
Vijuben Patel, who already had four children, had undergone a sterilisation procedure at a camp organised by authorities in the state six years earlier.
She argued that government should pay for her son’s maintenance, citing medical negligence, and named him as a plaintiff in the case even though he was just two years old at the time.
India’s legal system moves notoriously slowly and it was not until 1992 that the court ruled in her favour, ordering authorities to pay her 25,000 rupees (about $400).
But the authorities appealed, and a higher court finally ordered the family to repay the money in December last year — by which time Rajesh had grown up and his mother had died.
Rajesh, now a soldier in the Indian army, launched a counter-appeal in April.
His lawyer E E Saiyed told AFP said he wanted to achieve justice for his late mother.
But the Gujarat high court rejected his appeal, ruling that sterilization carried a marginal rate of failure and his birth did not constitute medical negligence.
“Prima facie it appears that all methods of family planning have small but varying degrees of possibility of failure,” Justice Akil Kureshi said in his judgement, adding that Rajesh will have to repay the 25,000 rupees given to his mother.
India, which is set to become the world’s most populated country in the next decade, has been trying for decades to curb population growth.
While the national government officially abandoned targets for family planning in 1996, local authorities still offer cash incentives to women who undergo sterilisation.
Rights groups say this amounts to coercion. The problem was highlighted last year when 13 women died after a government-run mass sterilisation programme in the central state of Chhattisgarh.
The procedure involves tubal ligation, or tying of the fallopian tubes, and the failure rate is around one per cent.