Section 13(1)(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does not make the mere existence of a mental-disorder, of any degree, sufficient in law to justify the dissolution of a marriage. Its degree must be such as that the spouse seeking relief cannot reasonably be expected to live with the other. The same must be proved by positive and substantive evidence. For the purposes of Section 13(1)(iii), Schizophrenia is what Schizophrenia does. “It is said to be insidious in its onset…it is characterized by the shallowness of emotions and is marked by a detachment from reality. In paranoid-states, the victim responds even to fleeting expressions of disapproval from others by disproportionate reactions… even well meant acts of kindness and of expression of sympathy appear to the victim as insidious traps” [Ram Narain Gupta, (1988) 4 SCC 247]. But the point to note and emphasize is that the personality-disintegration that characterizes the illness may be of varying degrees. Not all Schizophrenics are hit by the same intensity of the disease. Recently in Kollam Chandra Shekhar v. Kollam Padma Latha, (2014) 1 SCC 225, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India accepted, in fact, that “Schizophrenia is treatable, manageable… which can be put on par with Hypertension and Diabetes”.
This month marks the 10th Death Anniversary of Parveen Babi, First Bollywood Star who made it to the cover of Time. She lived and died alone, tormented by the vagaries of her own eccentricities. She starred opposite Mr. Bachchan in Deewar (1975, dir. Yash Chopra). Schizophrenia reduced her to calling him a ‘murder plot hatching gangster’ in the early 90’s. Could a Court have compelled her right to companionship ? I hear that President Obama is taking the BRAIN initiative seriously. Till the time he is not able to tell us who is normal, we are just stuck though: advising unwilling spouses to care when it matters and admonishing Parveen Babis to rot in peace.