Thursday, August 4, 2011

Is Lunacy a Ground for Divorce under Indian Divorce Law?

In many Bollywood films, we saw parts of the courtroom drama in which a woman is falsely implicated and found that "mentally unsound" in a courtroom. The scenes where a woman is mercilessly grilled with curious questions are not limited to reel life. Sometimes it happens in real life too. There is a reason why this happens. A healthy mental state is a prerequisite for a valid marriage under Indian law.

Sometimes people abuse the law and to provide evidence that listeners view it from another angle, the form incorrect impressions, light, and it occurs mostly in cases of divorce and custody of minors.

Indian Divorce Law: Lunacy as a Ground

Section 19, Indian Divorce Act 1869, states several grounds based on which a marriage can be declared null and void. Lunacy is included as a ground under this section. If either party was a lunatic or idiot at the time of the marriage, the marriage will be declared null and void.

In V.C.Thomas v A.N. Thomas alias Kunjumol (AIR 1999 Kerala 1), it was held that a marriage of an Indian Christian cannot be declared to be null and void on the ground of lunacy. In this case, the husband claimed that his wife was a lunatic but there seemed to be no evidence to indicate so. During the period that he claims she was mentally ill, there was no evidence of the wife being subject to a doctor’s examination or any medical treatment.

George Joseph v Alphonsa alias Lovely Mathew & Another (AIR 1999 Kerala 25) is another interesting case. The couple got married and their marriage was solemnized in accordance with the ceremonies in the Syrian Christian community in Kerala. Within a year, George filed for divorce. He alleged that Lovely had been mentally ill even before marriage but this fact had been concealed by her family.

The court examined the evidence that was given by the psychiatrists. The court was convinced that Lovely had not been suffering from mental illness at the time of marriage.

In this specific case, the court further stated that divorce cannot be granted under the Indian Divorce Act on the ground of lunacy as it was not a ground contemplated by Section 19 (3) of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869.


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