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Bombay HC: Epilepsy No Grounds for Divorce Under Hindu Marriage Act

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Published on: 27 September 2023 at 15:00 IST

The Bombay High Court has delivered a significant ruling, stating that epilepsy is not a valid ground for seeking divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 [Harish @ Roshan Karnewar vs Leelavati @ Reena Karnewar].

In this case, a division bench consisting of Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki SA Menezes upheld a 2016 family court decision denying divorce to a man who claimed that his wife’s epilepsy constituted an incurable disease and rendered her unsound of mind.

The husband asserted that his wife’s epilepsy led to abnormal behavior, including suicide threats, which ultimately resulted in the breakdown of their marriage.

Also Read: All you need to know about Divorce Law in India – Law Insider India

However, the High Court disagreed with these allegations, emphasizing that epilepsy is neither an incurable disease nor a mental or psychopathic disorder, making it an insufficient ground for divorce under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

The bench referenced and endorsed the findings of a single judge in the case of Raghunath Gopal Daftardar V. Vijaya Raghunath Daftardar, indicating that while not identical, the reasoning applied to the current case. Additionally, the bench noted that there is substantial medical evidence confirming that epilepsy does not prevent spouses from living together.

The Court highlighted that the husband failed to establish that his wife suffered from epilepsy or that such a condition could serve as a ground for divorce under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Act. According to a neurologist who treated the wife, she experienced a brain seizure rather than epilepsy.

Furthermore, the Court emphasized that even if the wife had epilepsy, it would not constitute a mental disorder, psychopathic disorder, or render her incurably unsound of mind. Consequently, the husband’s claim of cruelty or mental torture due to the wife’s condition lacked a basis.

The Court also dismissed the husband’s argument that the wife had written a suicide threat letter due to her “abnormal” behavior. It was determined that she wrote the note under duress from her husband, fearing eviction from their matrimonial home, and only to protect her one-year-old daughter.