The Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench held Tuesday that one cannot seek divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, on the ground that their spouse has epilepsy, which it said cannot be “considered a mental disorder or a psychopathic disorder”.
A division bench of Justice Vinay G Joshi and Valmiki S A Menezes on September 26 dismissed the man’s appeal against the family court judgement refusing divorce to him. The bench was hearing an appeal by a man against the 2016 family court verdict, alleging that his wife showed abnormal behaviour and even threatened to die by suicide due to epilepsy, resulting in the breakdown of the marriage.
“The condition of epilepsy is neither an incurable disease nor can it be considered a mental disorder or a psychopathic disorder for making a ground under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act. We are further of the opinion that there is an abundance of medical evidence, as of this date, that such a medical condition could not justify any petitioner’s stand that the condition would be an impediment to the spouses living together,” the bench held.
Section 13 (1)(iii) of the Act provides unsoundness of mind as a ground for divorce.
The HC noted, “We hold that the petitioner has failed to prove that the respondent was suffering from epilepsy or even that, if she were suffering from such a condition, the same could be considered as a ground under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Act for claiming a decree of dissolution of marriage.”
The bench also noted that the neurologist who treated the woman had deposed that epilepsy is a medical condition in which a person suffering from it can lead a normal life and the wife in the present case had only suffered from brain seizure.
“Thus clearly, even assuming the wife was suffering from epilepsy, this was certainly not a mental disorder or a psychopathic disorder or for that matter can be even considered as leaving her incurably of unsound mind,” the bench added.
The man had, through advocate Vishwadeep Mate, claimed that epilepsy led to the woman being unsound of mind. Mate said the manifestation of the said disorder rendered it impossible for the petitioner to live with the woman.
Advocate Jyoti Dharmadhikari, representing the woman, stated her client was under treatment since she was suffering from ‘giddiness’, which was actually diagnosed as a seizure, for which she was prescribed the anti-epileptic drug, Levera.
Dharmadhikari also claimed that claims by the man were “false and made up,” and in reality, the woman had been driven out of his home on the said excuse, even though she wanted to live with him.
The woman argued that she had informed the man before their marriage that she had seizures, and during the marriage, when she was pregnant, she was diagnosed having suffering from seizures with no mental disorder which would cause incurable unsoundness of mind, such that the petitioner would not be in a position to reside with the respondent.
She argued that even the family court had upheld her claim of being able to live a normal life.
The High Court bench noted that since the man could not prove the ground of epilepsy, his claim of being subjected to cruelty or mental torture due to the respondent’s medical condition would be “totally without any basis”.
The court, while dismissing the appeal, rejected the man’s contention of her writing a letter threatening to die by suicide due to her ‘abnormal’ behaviour. The court also observed that the woman had clearly explained that she wrote the letter under duress from the man and only to avoid being forced out of the matrimonial home by him.