Mumbai: Taking note of the fact that the Family Court had failed to test the veracity of a husband’s allegations that his wife was suffering from mental illness, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently remanded the matter back to the trial court. The HC also held it mandatory for all lower courts to first hold an enquiry in such matters and then arrive at a conclusion.
A single-judge bench of Justice Arun Dhavale was seized with a petition filed by a 20-year-old woman challenging the orders of a Sessions court, Ahmednagar, which granted divorce to her husband. The husband (23) had sought divorce on the ground that his in-laws concealed the fact of his wife’s mental illness, before the marriage.
In his divorce petition, the husband accused his wife of being normal for a few days but later behaving in a strange manner, showing ‘signs of insanity.’ He claimed that his wife would sleep throughout the day and sometimes just stare at fixed points and would often speak to herself. He claimed to have learnt her illness, after he saw his father-in-law giving her some medicines prescribed by a psychiatrist.
The wife on the other hand, refuted the allegations and claimed the sessions court did not offer her any opportunity to make submissions.Having heard the contentions, Justice Dhavale held, “Giving opportunity of hearing to a person suffering from mental illness, is giving him no opportunity unless he is given the assistance of a Guardian-at-litem (court-appointed guardian) who can take care of this defence.”
“It may be that a person may not appear to be mentally insane sometimes, if he is having lucid attacks at intervals. When he is not having such attacks, he may look perfectly normal, but whenever, he is having attack, he would be incapable of defending himself. Even in such cases, the due procedure of law must be strictly complied,” Justice Dhavale said.
The court also recommended that whenever a Judge comes across an unusual matter, s/he should not treat it as a normal case and must follow the due procedure as envisaged in the Civil Procedure Code (CPC).