Family Courts cautioned not to sit with a ‘preoccupied mind and extract reasonings from the void’ while deciding divorce cases

Karnataka High Court: Expressing concern over the insensitive approach of the Family Court, Bellary in the present case wherein it had granted a decree of divorce in favour of the respondent/ husband without properly analyzing the medical evidences ascertaining the medical condition of the appellant/wife, the Division Bench of H.G. Ramesh and Rathnakala, JJ., observed that the Family Court acted with extreme insensitivity by branding the appellant wife to be a complete paranoid schizophrenic when the medical evidences were clearly indicating that she was capable to lead a normal life with regular medication and family support. The Court observing the negative impact of the ‘condemnation’ by the Family Court upon the sentiments of the wife, cautioned the Family Courts in future to be alert and alive in each case that comes before it. The Court went on to say that the Family Courts must understand the distinction that each case carries due to its facts and circumstances, therefore a Judge cannot afford to “sit with a preoccupied mind and extract reasoning’s from the void, when the record before him is bereft of legal evidence”.

In the present case, the respondent husband had been granted a divorce decree under Section 13(1) (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, as according to his pleadings, his wife (appellant) was suffering from ‘Auditory Hallucinations’. The Family Court had allowed the petition both on the grounds of mental cruelty and incurable unsoundness of mind. Challenging the decree, V. Vidya Iyer, representing the wife, contended that though the appellant was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, the doctors of NIMHANS had made it clear that regular check ups and medication can control her suffering and she can ably discharge her marital responsibilities, however the condition is incurable.

The Court upon perusing the evidences and the opinions of various psychiatrists observed that no case was made out under Section 13(1) (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, because the appellant falls under the category of those schizophrenic patients who can be kept under control with regular medication. The Court further noticed that the appellant had successfully completed her education without any hassles related to her mental health. The Court even gave the example of renowned mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. who was also a paranoid schizophrenic, but went on to win the Nobel Prize. The Court highlighted that how his wife stood by him during his trying times. The Court further expressed its anguish over the fact that the Family Court, in the absence of any pleading or proof by the husband, itself comprehended the case to be of violation of Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act and declared the wife to be unfit for marriage and procreation, thereby transgressing its propriety and jurisdiction. The Court with the above observations, set aside the divorce decree. [Shilpa v. Praveen S.R., 2016 SCC OnLine Kar 2642 decided on 20.07.2016]

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