An allegation of a person being of unsound mind is a serious allegation having far reaching consequences not only on the mind of the person alleged to be of unsound mind, it said.
The Delhi High Court in Ashok Kumar vs. Mona, said what was not considered mental cruelty a few decades back might be construed as cruelty today. While making the observation, the Bench comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Pratibha Rani also agreed that a mere mismatch of personalities and friction arising from, therein, cannot be termed ‘cruelty’.
In the concerned case, the appellant husband had filed a petition for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and unsoundness of mind (section 13(1)(ia) and (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955).
While answering the question of cruelty that arose in the petition, the HC held that the evidence led by the appellant failed to bring on record any specific incident or conduct that could be termed ‘cruel’. The court also made the following observation while dealing with the ground of cruelty resorted to by spouses in divorce petitions:
“Cruelty as a ground for matrimonial relief has no parameters; it is
subjective and relative; what was not cruelty a few decades back is construed as cruelty today. Cruelty could be mental or physical, direct or indirect, intended or unintended. But, mere mismatch of personalities and friction arising because of that cannot be termed as cruelty. The conduct of cruelty must be with particulars of the dates and particulars of the conduct.”
The court also observed that in the particular case, the particulars of conduct of cruelty were missing.
As regards the mental disorder of the appellant’s wife, the court restated observations made in previous judgment of the apex court where it was held that the context in which the ideas of unsoundness of mind and mental disorder occurs in the section as grounds for dissolution of a marriage, requires the assessment of the degree of the mental disorder. Its degree must be such as that the spouse seeking relief cannot reasonably be expected to live with the other. All mental abnormalities are not recognised as grounds of decree. Further, the court agreed that not all schizophrenics are characterised by the same intensity of the disease. Mere branding of a person as schizophrenic, therefore, will not suffice. For purposes of Section 13(1)(iii), schizophrenia is what schizophrenia does.
The HC advanced cautiously while dealing with the allegation of mental unsoundness. After careful examination, it was found that the allegation wasn’t well established with substantive evidence. Discharging the respondent of the charge of unsoundness of mind and justifying its cautious approach towards the issues, the Delhi HC opined that:
“An allegation of a person being of unsound mind is a serious allegation having far reaching consequences not only on the mind of the person alleged to be of unsound mind. It affects the person’s future life. Therefore, courts are very cautious before such a plea is accepted.”
Thus, after making the above mentioned observations, the HC discharged the respondents of both the charges of cruel treatment and unsoundness of mind.
Read the Judgment here.