New Delhi, Sept. 21: A divorce cannot be granted on the ground of a spouse’s mental disorder if the condition is treatable, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The court refused divorce to a doctor who had claimed he found it impossible to live with his wife, also a practising doctor, because she had schizophrenia.
After examining medical reports, the apex court made two points. One, it said, there was no clear evidence to support Dr Kollam Chandra Sekhar’s claim that Dr Padma Latha was schizophrenic.
Two, even assuming that she had the disorder, there was no reason to grant divorce as schizophrenia is as treatable as hypertension or diabetes.
The bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and Y. Gopal Gowda, therefore, dismissed the husband’s appeal against Andhra Pradesh High Court’s decision to quash the divorce, granted by a matrimonial court in Rajahmundry.
Dr Sekhar had obtained the divorce on the ground that his wife was schizophrenic and had suicidal tendencies. He claimed he underwent severe mental stress because of her irrational and aggressive behaviour with family members.
He had invoked Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, which allows divorce on the ground of a spouse’s “unsound mind” and “mental disorder”.
The apex court said the high court had rightly quashed the divorce as the mere existence of a mental disorder of any degree was not sufficient to justify dissolution of a marriage. It noted the high court’s findings that:
A husband cannot abandon his wife just because she is ill.
Dr Krishna Murthy, superintendent of the Institute of Mental Health in Hyderabad, had testified that schizophrenia was as treatable as hypertension and diabetes — meaning that constant medication can keep the condition under control.
Another doctor who had examined the wife at Nimhans, Bangalore, had stated that his team found no evidence of schizophrenia.
“It is thus clear that the (wife), even if she did suffer from schizophrenia, is in a much better health condition at present. Therefore, this court cannot grant the dissolution of marriage on the basis of one spouse’s illness,” the apex court said.
Legal experts said the verdict, coupled with Dr Murthy’s general statement about schizophrenia being treatable (which the court accepted), should mean that divorce cannot be granted on the ground of schizophrenia unless a larger bench rules otherwise.
The couple had married on May 31, 1995, according to Hindu rites and had a daughter on July 7, 1997. Both doctors practise at private hospitals in Andhra Pradesh. The divorce was granted in 2002 but the high court set it aside in September 2006 on an appeal from the wife.