The Supreme Court ruled on Friday to consider whether a man can divorce his wife for refusing treatment for mental illness, a condition she categorically denies.
A bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose issued an opinion and stayed an order from the Kerala High Court granting the man his divorce. The man accused his wife, a senior professional nurse who works in the UK, of “paranoid schizophrenia”. The Family Court and the High Court believed him enough to grant the divorce.
Hearing his appeal filed through solicitor Vipin Nair, the bench set a hearing for six weeks. The wife argued that it is well-established law that a man cannot obtain a divorce simply because his wife has fallen ill.
In this case, the woman said she wasn’t even sick and was a successful medical professional who would know if there was something wrong with her.
“Her educational background as well as her professional experience would explain that she has never suffered from any kind of mental disorder or even presented such a symptom and this is only an allegation that her husband imputes to her. She has continuously achieved high standards in his educational and professional career,” the petition reads.
Mr Nair referred to the concept of ‘paranoid schizophrenia’ explained in Rustom Jal Vakil’s textbook of medicine as a condition riddled with both logical and bizarre delusions.
“The disease usually begins late in life, between the ages of 25 and 35… It [the patient] can also have grandiose delusions. Due to his superior intelligence, he can claim to lead his country to victory or the world to prosperity. He can claim to reach the sun, the moon or the stars in a few years. He can claim to be the greatest authority on religion, science or philosophy,” the senior attorney quoted.
He maintained that his client had failed to demonstrate any of the above aspects. Instead, she braved the odds and carved out a career for herself.
The woman, through her petition, said forcing the allegation that she was a paranoid schizophrenic despite her outright denial was cruelty in itself. This amounted to moral harassment on the part of the husband.
The fact that the lower courts granted the divorce while finding that she was not ill amounted to perversion and arbitrariness.