A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in Calcutta High Court, demanding revision of an international law allowing NRIs to obtain divorce decrees from foreign courts against wives residing in India.
The petition assumes significance against the backdrop of more than 100 cases filed by brides born in Bengal demanding restoration of their marital status, annulled by ex-parte orders from foreign courts.
The allegation levelled by most of the women is that these NRIs take advantage of their inability to cough up enough money to contest a divorce case on foreign shores.
This is the track taken by Relations, a city-based marriage bureau, that filed the PIL last week on behalf of the women 'deserted' by their NRI husbands.
A recent survey conducted by Relations stressed how 'helpless' the victims were.
'It is an impossible task for an average Bengali woman to fight a case in foreign courts. As a result, they are going to local city courts demanding restoration of their marriages,' explained Anindya Sanyal, founder of the marriage bureau. 'The alarming situation has prompted us to file the PIL,' he added.
Relations recorded 'at least 20 cases last year' of NRI husbands assuring their brides of sending visas and permits, but then despatching summons for divorce cases.
These would then be settled ex parte in favour of the husbands because of the inability of the women to attend court hearings abroad.
Advocate Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee, set to argue the case for the petitioners, said: 'The city courts are admitting the petition and sending notices to the respondent husbands. But the accused husbands are paying no heed to the court order. There is nothing that the courts here can do in this regard.'
Describing the situation as 'horrible', the advocate recounted a case he had fought a month ago in Alipore court. 'Biswajyoti Ghosh, a US-based engineer, was granted a divorce by a court in Texas from his wife Pratima Ghosh, a resident of Beleghata. When Pratima moved court demanding restoration of her marriage, the Alipore court passed an order restraining the husband from marrying a second time till the disposal of the case. But reports reached us that Biswajyoti had married a second time, ignoring the order of an Indian court.'
Many similar cases for restoration of marriages are pending in Barasat court, Sealdah court, the city civil court and Calcutta High Court.
Veteran lawyer Gitanath Ganguli pointed at a provision in the Marriage Act that allows marriages registered in India to be annulled by a court in a foreign country, and backed the 'need to modify the law' and tackle the problem.