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Cook up a story and offload your spouse

I don’t like the way he wears his clothes and hair.

She applies coconut oil and turmeric every day.

He does not eat non-veg at all. Wants only vegetarian cooking at home.

She has eloped 22 times since we got married 15 years ago. I am not keen to take her back.

He always runs around half-naked in the house.

Shahrukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee in the film Chalte Chalte where they played a couple fighting over small household matters

Hyderabad, Sept. 11: When it comes to getting rid of your spouse, no linen is too dirty to wash in public.

A visit to family courts in the city yielded yarns that husbands and wives weave to convince judges that they should grant immediate divorce. “Only two out of 10 divorce cases are built on valid charges. The rest are concocted with the connivance of both spouses,” says Padma Rao, an advocate who runs a counselling centre.

Rao says the number of divorces in Andhra Pradesh has shot up five-fold since 2003 to nearly 26,000 last year. This year, it has already crossed 24,000. “The number includes cases decided not just in Hyderabad but also in other major towns like Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Tirupati, Nellore, Rajahmundry, Eluru, Kakinada, Warangal, Kurnool, Nizamabad and Bhimavaram,” she says.

Part of the blame lies with the booming infotech industry. Andhra accounts for nearly 75,000 H1B visa holders and 40,000 software engineers who are employed overseas. Once abroad, many of these IT professionals do not want to come back. As one sure passport to a permanent stay abroad is tying the knot with someone settled out there, the spouse back home gets offloaded.

IT accounts for about 30 to 35 per cent of the divorces every year in the state. Dowry demands and the craving for a male child are the other main reasons.

Not all the cases reach the courts. Only 25 per cent do, says retired family court judge Shakuntala Reddy. The rest, where both parties sign documents agreeing to part ways, are decided in front of community or family elders.

Of those that take the legal course, the family court in Hyderabad’s Purana Haveli handles 25 to 30 cases every day and grants about five divorces, says Vandana M, an administrative executive.

Some of the allegations spouses have levelled against each other are bizarre. “A divorce was given in Secunderabad when a wife complained about the way her husband of three years dressed and looked. She also got maintenance,” says K.V.N. Sailaja, a family court counsel.

In Bhimavaram, a schoolteacher complained that her religious-minded husband wanted to offer prayers with her at least thrice a day. “Being religious is one thing,” she said. “But how can I come home during lunch and spend an hour in puja'”

Some of the accusations are serious. A Vijayawada woman, Chameli Bose, claimed that her husband, a merchant, kept her in captivity for five years. “He locked the house whenever he went out and never allowed me to talk to another man or even family members,” she said in her divorce petition after escaping with a vegetable vendor.

Lawyers, too, have come up with ingenious tricks. Two years ago, a man got a divorce by ensuring that court summons to his wife reached the wrong address. When she failed to turn up in court, the judge granted divorce. The husband and his lawyer, however, saw to it that the divorce order reached his wife at the correct address.

Sandhya Rao, a lawyer who offers free legal help in divorce cases, says the husband was later jailed and the divorce cancelled after the wife realised the trick and moved court.

In some cases, false allegations have boomeranged.

“Janakiram, a software engineer, was sent to jail for six months for providing a concocted video clipping of his wife flirting with someone else to get a divorce,” says Annie Mathews, an advocate and managing trustee of Aashish, an NGO.

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