Mental illness by itself cannot warrant decree of divorce : HC

Mental illness by itself cannot warrant decree of divorce : HC

Mental illness by itself cannot warrant decree of divorce : HC

The Bombay High Court has refused to grant a decree of divorce to a woman on the ground that her husband was suffering from schizophrenia and had beat her a couple of times after marriage.

"Mental disorder of a husband even if proved, cannot, by itself, warrant a decree of divorce and it must be further proved that it is of such a nature as the wife could not be expected to live with the husband," said Justices V L Achliya and Vijaya Tahilramani in a judgement delivered on January 21.

The Court dismissed the appeal filed by the wife against a Mumbai family court order of June 6 last year rejecting her plea for divorce on the ground of cruelty as her husband was allegedly suffering from mental illness.

"Inability to manage his or her affairs is an essential attribute of an incurably unsound mind. The facts pleaded and the evidence placed on record produced by the appellant (wife) in this case, does not establish such inability as a ground on which dissolution of marriage was sought by her before the trial Court," said the Judges.

"It is thus clear that the respondent (husband), even if he did suffer from schizophrenia, it was not to such an extent as to make living together impossible," the judges observed.

Merely branding a spouse as a schizophrenic is not sufficient. The degree of mental disorder of the spouse must be proved to be such that other spouse cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her, the court opined.

Quoting a Supreme Court Judgement, the bench said the degree of mental disorder must be proved. It must be such that the petitioning spouse cannot reasonably be expected to live with the other.

All mental abnormalities are not recognized as grounds for grant of decree. If the mere existence of any degree of mental abnormality could justify dissolution of a marriage, few marriages would, indeed, survive in law, the Judges observed.

Not all schizophrenics are characterized by the same intensity of the disease. The mere branding of a person as schizophrenic, therefore, will not suffice, the Judges remarked. 

The Judges noted that the respondent (husband) has denied that he was suffering from any such mental illness and according to him, he was taking medication as he was suffering from stress and sleeplessness.

He (the husband) has been cross-examined at length. This averment of the respondent that he did not suffer from "paranoid schizophrenia" has not been dislodged in the cross-examination, said the Judges.

The High Court further noted that the respondent has also stated that he had not inflicted any mental or physical cruelty upon the appellant by abusing or beating her. No dent has been created in this averment in the cross-examination.

"In our opinion, the appellant failed to prove that the husband treated her with cruelty and that he is suffering from any mental disorder of such nature that she cannot be reasonably expected to live with him," said the Judges.

The evidence of the respondent-husband shows that there was minor wear and tear of their married life. It is a settled law that a decree of divorce cannot be granted on minor wear and tear of married life, the Judges further noted.

Therefore, the appellant is not entitled to get the decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty and mental disorder of the respondent as per Section 13(1)(i-a) and 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the court held.

The wife had also claimed accommodation from her estranged husband saying that she had given him Rs two lakhs to buy the house and also spent Rs 4 to 5 lakhs on interiors.

However, the court rejected her plea for accommodation on the ground that the wife admitted during cross-examination that Rs two lakh loan given by her for the house had been returned to her by a cheque. Also, she was unable to prove that she had spent Rs 4-5 lakh on the interiors.

The couple had married on January 26, 2000. The wife alleged that on the day of the honeymoon, her husband had assaulted her and also she was beaten up a couple of times till 2007 when she left her matrimonial home out of fear.

In the petition, the wife said that she was staying with her parents since 2007. On May 5, 2007, she alleged, her husband had assaulted her in front of her parents and brother.However, the court noted that she did get her close relatives examined when they were eye witnesses and also easily available to her.

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