Divorce orders by post shatter lives of rural brides

February 17th, 2008 - 12:43 pm ICT by admin  

By Kanu Sarda
New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) For Shashibala, an unlettered girl from a village in Jharkhand, her dreams of a happy married life in the national capital came crashing when she received a divorce order through post just after a year of her marriage. Hers is among an increasing trend of ex-parte divorces taking place with the girls and their families in far off villages taken completely unawares as the unscrupulous husbands discover an easy route to get rid of their illiterate wives.

These hapless women do not even get a summons from the court before they get the divorce order, usually after the husband has taken the dowry. An ex-parte divorce is a one-sided case where the judge passes the ruling if the other party does not appear twice in the court.

There are around 50 applications received in Delhi courts every day from men wanting to undo the nuptial bond.

To get a divorce the basic requirement is to show a separation of one year, which is easy for the husbands with their wives living in their parent’s home in villages. Once proof of separation is shown, then the husband gets the divorce easily.

However, such rulings can be challenged in higher courts. And this is what Shashibala is doing. Shashibala has now challenged the divorce by husband Girish Sharma in a Delhi court.

“She was forced to give her mutual consent for divorce under influence, force and fraud. She was assured that the money demanded as dowry by her husband would be waived if she gives a statement in the court,” Javed Ashraf Khan, lawyer of Shashibala, told IANS.

He said that the husband had taken advantage of Shashibala being unlettered.

The latest figures collected from the eight matrimonial courts in the city indicate a disturbing trend. Of the 50 petitions being filed everyday, almost half relate to people from rural backgrounds where the groom takes dowry and after sometime files a divorce case on the unsuspecting bride.

“It came as a shock to me and my family that our daughter was divorced without any major marital discord between our two families. Though we kept receiving dowry demands we never thought they would divorce my daughter,” said Shashibala’s father Jagdish Sharma.

Most such cases are either disposed of with the other party unaware of any legal proceedings against them, while the rest are solved through mutual consent.

“It’s the tragedy of the Indian legal system that many such rulings are passed without even the knowledge and understanding of a party against whom the case has been filed. Proper legal aid should be there so that illiterate girls can fight for their rights in the court,” said Khan.

Divorce cases are on an upswing and such ex-parte cases are adding to the numbers. In 2006-07, 6,283 divorce cases were filed in matrimonial courts - adding to the 5,677 cases pending from earlier. Of these, 5,236 cases were disposed of, leaving 6,724 still undecided.

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