Failure on wife’s part to disclose her mental disorder before her marriage with the husband constituted a fraud perpetrated upon him.
On expected lines, we saw how the Delhi High Court in a commendable, cogent, concise, composed and convincing judgment titled Sandeep Aggarwal vs Priyanka Aggarwal in MAT. APP. (F.C.) 142/2020 that was reserved on 5.10.2021 and then finally pronounced on 24.12.2021 has annulled marriage between a husband and wife after 16 years observing that the failure on wife’s part to disclose her mental disorder before her marriage with the husband constituted a fraud perpetrated upon him. It must be apprised here that the Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh was dealing with an appeal that was filed by the husband challenging a Family Court order wherein his petition under Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act was dismissed. It must be mentioned here that while allowing the appeal, the Court annulled the marriage on the ground contained in Section 12(1)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act.
To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice Jasmeet Singh for a Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of himself and Justice Vipin Sanghi sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “The present appeal has been filed under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 read with Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 on behalf of the appellant (husband) against the impugned judgment and order dated 24.12.2019 passed by the Family Court, Dwarka, wherein the petition under Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act filed by the appellant was dismissed.”
While narrating the brief factual matrix as per the appellant, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “The marriage between the appellant and the respondent was solemnized on 10.12.2005. As per the appellant, the marriage between the appellant and the respondent was the outcome of a calculated fraud that was perpetrated by the respondent and her family members as they chose not to disclose a vital and crucial fact regarding the respondent’s mental health/ailment.”
Simply put, the Bench then brings out in para 4 that, “According to the appellant, the respondent was, before the marriage, and during the days that she stayed with the appellant, suffering from Acute Schizophrenia. The respondent behaved in a very unusual manner after her marriage in the matrimonial home, as well as during their honeymoon.”
Going ahead, the Bench then states in para 5 that, “Consequently, the appellant took the respondent to Dr. Inderjeet Sharma in January, 2006, who after examining her referred her to GB Pant hospital, where Dr. Rajiv Mehta examined the respondent and prescribed certain medicines. Finding no change in respondent’s behaviour, the appellant took her to a neuro surgeon at Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, Delhi where the respondent was examined again and Dr. Harcharan Singh prescribed her medicines.”
Moving on, the Bench then discloses in para 7 that, “Since the appellant did not find any improvement in the mental health of the respondent, he also took her to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where Dr. Mamta Sood, Neuro Psychiatrist examined her and prescribed her few medicines. As per Dr. Mamta Sood, the respondent was suffering from Acute Schizophrenia. The appellant thereafter questioned the respondent’s parents and narrated the mental condition of the respondent.”
It would be germane to mention that the Bench then brings out in para 9 that, “The appellant along with the other family members questioned the father of the Respondent, and it was then that the father of the respondent took the respondent with him to her parental home (after 9 weeks of marriage) on 17.02.2006 and, since then the respondent is living with her parents in their house. The appellant also averred that the marriage between the appellant and the respondent was not consummated.”
Briefly stated, after hearing the learned Counsel for the parties and having gone through the documents as mentioned in para 29, the Bench then hastens to add in para 30 that, “At the outset, we may state that Judges are not medical professionals or experts, and acquire limited knowledge based on the arguments of the parties, and the medical literature produced before them; the testimonies of expert witnesses produced in Court, and; the submissions advanced before the Court. The Courts, to be able to decide such issues, needs expert opinion from credible persons in the field. The parties are also entitled to grant of opportunity to either support, or challenge the opinion that the experts may give after examination of the person concerned, and all other relevant materials. However, what weighs with us, at the outset is the denial of the respondent to subject herself to evaluation of her condition by an independent Medical Board to be appointed by the Court. This conduct itself raises a presumption against the respondent. The judgment of Dharampal (Supra) is clear and unequivocal in this regard.”
Be it noted, the Bench then quite significantly observes in para 34 that, “It is true that the medical opinion in the present case is not conclusive. However, the evidence of Dr. Rajiv Mehta, read with the evidence Dr. Inderjeet Sharma, coupled with the documents exhibited by them seems to suggest that Respondent was suffering from schizophrenia. In the cross-examination, the doctor opined that the provisional diagnosis of the patient was on the basis of history and the interview of the patient. PW-5 further deposed in his prescription that the patient was suffering from F20.”
Furthermore, the Bench then mentions in para 35 that, “Further, generally, tests are not conducted for Schizophrenia. Pertinently, the respondent herself admitted that even in her college days she used to have headache and the said headaches were of such severity, that they interfered with her education, as a result of which, the respondent could not complete her college. There is no explanation or reason, as to what was the nature of those headaches; what caused those headaches; and; what was the treatment given to the respondent for those headaches.”
It cannot be just glossed over that the Bench then lays bare in para 36 that, “A combined reading of the evidence as well as the admission of the respondent, even though, may not conclusively prove that the respondent was suffering from Schizophrenia/Hebephrenia- F-20 prior to her marriage, at the time of her marriage, and; subsequent to her marriage, but definitely raises a serious doubt about the mental health of the respondent, and points to the possibility of the appellant’s allegations in that regard being true.”
While citing the relevant case law, the Bench then points out in para 40 that, “In Sharda v. Dharampal, the Court held as under:
“85. So viewed, the implicit power of a court to direct medical examination of a party to a matrimonial litigation in a case of this nature cannot be held to be violative of one’s right of privacy.
86. To sum up, our conclusions are
1. A matrimonial court has the power to order a person to undergo medical test.
2. Passing of such an order by the court would not be in violation of the right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
3. However, the Court should exercise such a power if the applicant has a strong prima facie case and there is sufficient material before the Court. If despite the order of the court, the respondent refuses to submit himself to medical examination, the court will be entitled to draw an adverse inference against him.””
Quite remarkably, the Bench then minces no words to hold most convincingly in para 41 that, “Thus, the Family Court fell in error in rejecting the appellant’s application. The approach of the Family Court – that the appellant had to fend for himself, and he could not seek a direction from the Court for medical examination of the respondent was erroneous. It is not that this direction was sought by the appellant without any foundation or basis. The appellant had raised a plea that the respondent was suffering from Schizophrenia from day one. The appellant had shown the respondent to several specialists, and the medications prescribed show that they were relevant for treatment of Schizophrenia. The appellant also produced the medical doctors/ specialists and exhibited their prescriptions. The parties lived together for hardly any period, as the respondent was taken away by her father after about nine weeks of marriage from the matrimonial home. The evidence with regard to the respondent’s medical condition – which related to her mental health, could possibly not have been garnered by the appellant without co-operation of the respondent. Only upon medical examination of the respondent, it could be established, with definiteness whether, or not, she is suffering from Schizophrenia, even though, there were pointers in that direction.”
Of course, the Bench then clearly states in para 42 that, “Pertinently, the Respondent could not establish any reason as to why, so early in the marriage, the parties separated, when according to the respondent, there were no serious issues in the relationship. The fact that she sought Restitution of Conjugal Rights itself shows that so far as she was concerned, she had no serious complaints with the appellant; or the relationship.”
As we see, the Bench then observes in para 43 that, “In the aforesaid circumstances, in our view, the Family Court was duty bound to direct the medical examination of the respondent. The appellant could not have been left to gather evidence of the respondent’s mental condition on his own.”
Most significantly and also most remarkably, what forms the cornerstone of this extremely commendable judgment is then elaborated upon exhaustively in para 49 wherein it is stipulated that, “The fact that the parties could not live together beyond nine weeks itself shows that the mental disorder suffered by the respondent is of a kind, and to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children. It is not the case of the respondent that either of the conditions enumerated in Section 12(2)(a)(i), or (ii) exists in the present case, which would have debarred the appellant from seeking annulment of marriage on the ground contained in Section 12(1)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act. That is not the defence set up by her, or established by her. The failure on the part of the respondent to disclose her mental disorder before her marriage with the appellant – as alleged by him, constituted a fraud perpetrated upon the appellant. Apart from stating that the parties had met a few times before the marriage, the respondent has not specifically averred, or established, that the appellant was made aware of the mental disorder suffered by the respondent, which was passed-off by her as mere “headaches”. Headaches–by themselves are not a disease. They are only symptoms of a disease. The Respondent does not state what caused her such serious and frequent headaches, which debilitated her from completing her studies.”
As a corollary, the Bench then holds in para 50 that, “We are, therefore, inclined to allow the present appeal and annul the marriage between the appellant and the respondent on the ground contained in Section 12(1)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act.”
On a parting note, the Bench then finally directs while specifying in para 51 that, “We may also observe that the learned counsel for the respondent is the father of the respondent, and it appears that his objectivity in dealing with the matter has been overshadowed by his love for his daughter, i.e. the respondent, which is only natural and to be expected. However, in the process, unfortunately, the life of the appellant has been ruined and he has remained stuck in this relationship for 16 years without any resolution. In the most important years of his life, when the appellant would have, otherwise, enjoyed marital and conjugal bliss and satisfaction, he has had to suffer due to the obstinacy displayed by not only the respondent, but even her father, who appears to have been calling the shots in relation to the matrimonial dispute raised by the appellant. In these circumstances, we grant token costs to the appellant of Rs. 10,000/- .”
In conclusion, the Delhi High Court in this notable case took strong exception to the wife not disclosing her mental disorder before her marriage. This according to the Delhi High Court in this leading case constituted a fraud on husband. So no wonder that the Delhi High Court decides to annul the marriage after 16 years as desired by the appellant! The appellant’s claims to annul the marriage were thus fully endorsed by the Delhi High Court!