Schizophrenia cannot be a Ground for Divorce: Supreme Court

Ankita Sharma

The bench of Supreme Court Judges, Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice V. Gopala Gowda in the case of Kollam Chandra Sekhar v/s Kollam Padma Latha held that, “temporary ill-health including schizophrenia, a mental disorder, which is curable cannot be a ground for divorce under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.”The Appeal was brought up by the husband against the judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court trying to seek divorce from his wife alleging that, she has been suffering from schizophrenia.

The Supreme Court while deciding the present case paid reliance on the past judgments of the Court. In the case of Ram Narain Gupta v/s Rameshwar Gupta [(1998) 5 SCC 247] the Court interpreted the provisions of Section 13 (1) (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1954 and laid down the law regarding the mental disorder of unsound mind as a ground available to a party to get the marriage dissolved. The Court paid attention to the portions of ‘unsoundness of mind’ & ‘mental disorder’ that appear in the section. It states that, “the context in which the ideas of unsoundness of “mind” and “mental disorder” occur in the section as grounds for dissolution of a marriage, require the assessment of the degree of the “mental disorder”. Its degree must be such that the spouse seeking relief cannot reasonably be expected to live with the other. All mental abnormalities are not recognized as grounds for grant of decree of divorce.   The Supreme Court affirms the High Court’s decision based on the evidence produced by the medical experts after examining the respondent. The Court paid attention to the another judgment of Vinita Saxena v/s Pankaj Pandit [(2006) 3 SCC 778] to examine the issue of the disease in terms of the risk, symptoms and cure. The High Court through the evidences produced by the medical expert concluded that, schizophrenia is not a dangerous disease and can be controlled by drugs and proper medical treatment. Thus, in the present case, the situation and the condition of the respondent wife, does not lead the Court to believe that, the couple should be granted divorce under Section 13(1)(iii) of the said Act. The Apex Court relies on a host of judgments of Pramatha Kumar Maity v/s Ashima Maity [AIR (1991) Cal. 123] holding that, mental disorder of the wife, even if proved cannot a warrant a decree of divorce and the condition must further be proved of such a nature that the husband could not be expected to live with the wife. In the present case, the facts clearly illustrate that, the wife had not been suffering from any mental disorder and had been well managing her work and household work. She had rather completed her medical course and was working.

Ending the judgment with dismissing the plea, the bench remarked upon the growing trend in the Indian society to dissolve the ties of marriage, which has always been considered to be sacred institution in the society. The Court ruled in the favor of the wife under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1954 ‘Restitution of Conjugal Rights’and stated that, illness like schizophrenia that can be treated with medicines and treatment cannot become a ground for divorce.