Wife’s illness leads man to seek divorce
BANGALORE: Prema is a welleducated woman, married to Raghu, an executive with a multinational company in Bangalore. The couple tied the knot in 1997 and has an 11-year-old daughter. Those who don’t know Prema will find her healthy and happy. But her husband and daughter have experiences otherwise. Raghu has moved the family court seeking divorce from Prema saying she’s suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a mental illness or a psychiatric disorder.
Raghu, in his plea, has contended that in the initial years of marriage he noticed that Prema had a habit of doing certain things repetitively. “She will either keep washing her hands or repeatedly check if the main door is closed. I used to ignore it, but her behaviour became more obsessive after our daughter was born in 2000. Once she started going to school, Prema used to doubt if she really goes to school or not; she does her homework or not. She used to punish the child for petty reasons,” states Raghu.
But can OCD be a ground for seeking divorce? A family court in Bangalore has raised this pertinent question. Last week, when Raghu’s petition came up for hearing, the judge posed some questions: “Is this illness incurable? Show how will it affect your matrimonial prospects?”
The court also questioned if a person suffering from OCD can live a normal life. “What if her illness is cured after divorce is granted?” asked the judge.
Raghu’s lawyer argued: “He waited for two years after finding out that she is suffering from OCD. She hasn’t shown any improvement to treatment for over ten years now. Even the child is getting affected because of the mother’s behaviour.”
The plea, which was filed in 2001, said Prema’s symptoms aggravated from 2000, after the birth of their daughter. She was treated in two Bangalore hospitals and also one in the United Kingdom but hasn’t shown any improvement. She is now staying with her parents in Kerala and is under treatment.
Prema’s lawyer countered that his client is responding to treatment and the illness is curable. “Just because a mother is giving some minor punishment to the child, can she be called mentally ill? Or can it be a ground to seek divorce?” he asked.
Sheila Aneesh, president of All-India Federation of Women Lawyers, said: “The law generally says that some incurable disease can be a ground for divorce. But the case should be supported by medical reports which say that the disorder or the illness is incurable in nature. There are chances that certain illnesses which are incurable today can be cured tomorrow with the help of advanced medical facilities. The judgment in a case should be passed on the present status of the case and not on its future prospects.”
B N Gangadhar, professor of psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences ( Nimhans), had this to say: “Diagnosis cannot answer all questions. A good proportion of these patients show much improvement and we say they are cured.” He explained that in a similar proportion, response to treatment would be satisfactory thus enabling a person to perform most of the essential roles. “However a small proportion would be disabled even after considerable treatment and the disability of performing matrimonial duties can vary from case to case,” he added.
MERIT OF THE CASE
A family court,while hearing the case last week, asked if obsessive compulsive disorder could be a ground for seeking divorce. “Is this illness incurable? Show how will it affect your matrimonial prospects? What if her illness is cured after divorce is granted?” asked the judge.