Legal Thesaurus

Parens partriae

Father of the country. The doctorine of parens patriae had originated in British law as early as in the 13th century. It implies that the King is the father of the country and is under obligation to look after the interest of those who are unable to look after themselves. The idea behind parens patriae is that if a citizen is in need of someone who can act as a parent who can make decisions and take some other action, sometimes the State is best qualified to take on this role. The duty of the King in feudal times to act as parens patriae has been taken over in modern times by the State. In the case of an incompetent person who is unable to take a decision (in the instant case) whether to withdraw life support or not, it is the Court alone, as parens patriae, which ultimately must take this decision, though, no doubt, the views of near relatives, next friend and doctors must be given due weight. The Court too can assume the role of parens patriae. [Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, (2011) 4 SCC 454].

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