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Report No. 59

3.9. Position in England under Act of 1937 and subsequent Acts.-

The Act of 1811 (referred to above1) required that the person must have been found lunatic by inquisition, or must have been committed to care and custody under some statute. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1937 (and later Acts) expanded the scope of unsoundness of mind in this respect. Even if a person is of unsound mind but is not so found by inquisition, it was felt that the marriage should be capable of annulment in the interests of the other party no less than in the interests of possible children of the marriage and of the State2. Progress made in the classification of mental diseases also provided scope for improvement, and the Act of 1937, therefore, provided3 that the marriage should be voidable on the ground that either party was, at the time of the marriage, "of unsound mind or a mental defective under the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913 to 1927, or was subject to recurrent fits of insanity or epilepsy."

The principal object of this formulation was to make it clear that even though the ceremony and its resulting rights and obligations may have been understood by the party said to be mentally abnormal, the abnormal mental state, if it could be shown to have existed, would render the marriage voidable. In a case decided in 18853 it was held that it was not sufficient that the marriage ceremony was understood by the party, and it was also necessary that that party should understand the obligations of married life. This aspect assumes importance, because it would appear4 that there could be cases where a person might be mentally abnormal, but, by reason of the administration of tranquillizers, he or she may not appear to be so at the time of marriage and may even appear to understand the marriage ceremony at that particular moment.

1. The Marriage of Lunatics Act, 1811, para. 3.8 supra.

2. Report of Divorce Law Commission, (1912), p. 117, cited in Graveson Century of Family Law, (1957), p. 337.

3. Section 7(1)(b), MCA 1937.

4. Durham v. Durham, (1885) 10 probate Division 80 (81), referred to in Park (in re:), (1953) 2 All ER 1411 (1427).

5. Suggestion by an aggrieved party in a file of the Ministry of Law.

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Special Marriage Act, 1954 Back

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