The Supreme Court held that to brand a wife as unfit for marriage and procreation of children on account of a mental disorder it needs to be established that the ailment suffered by her is of such a kind or to such an extent that it is impossible for her to lead a normal married life

R Lakshmi Narayan vs Santhi

Supreme Court

01/05/2001

Appeal (civil) 5028 of 1999

About/from the judgment:

The Hon'ble Supreme Court in R. Lakshmi Narayan v. Santhi (supra) held that Section 9 provides that a marriage may be solemnised between any two Hindus if the conditions specified in the section are fulfilled. Amongst the other conditions stated therein in Clause (ii) it is laid down that at the time of marriage neither party is incapable of giving a valid consent to it in consequence of unsoundness of mind or though capable of giving a valid consent, has been suffering from a mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children. The clause lays down as one of the conditions for a Hindu marriage that neither party must be suffering from unsoundness of mind, mental disorder, insanity or epilepsy and Section 12(1)(b) refers that any marriage shall be voidable and may be annulled if the marriage is in contravention of the condition specified in Clause (ii) of Section 5. On a plain reading of the said provision it is manifest that the conditions prescribed in that section, if established disentitles the party to a valid marriage. The marriage is not per se void but voidable under the clause. Such conditions in the very nature of things call for strict standard of proof. The onus of proof is very heavy on the party who approaches the court for breaking a marriage already solemnised. An objection to a marriage on the ground of mental incapacity must depend on a question of degree of the defect in order to rebut the validity of a marriage which has in fact taken place. As noted earlier, the onus of bringing a case under this clause lies heavily on the petitioner who seeks annulment of the marriage on the ground of unsoundness of mind or mental disorder. The court will examine the matter with all possible care and anxiety.

 

In our opinion, the Family Court was justified in denying the decree of annulment of marriage on the ground of Section 12(2) of the Act that even after coming to know of such illness, the appellant husband continued to live with the respondent wife and cohabit as husband and wife and, therefore, on the ground of fraud or on the ground of such mental disorder he could not be awarded the decree of annulment of marriage.

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