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Shield against proxy divorce

New Delhi, Aug. 4: Delhi schoolteacher Gurpal Kaur, 32, had no idea she had been a divorcee for over two years. A chance meeting with an acquaintance in 2009 revealed that her husband, a multinational executive posted in Mumbai, had remarried.

Investigations by a detective agency she hired let out the truth: she had been legally divorced from her husband of six years in 2007 without her knowledge. Sarabjit Singh, a 35-year-old multinational executive, had staged a drama so intricate that it fooled even the courts.

He got Gurpal’s signatures forged and got himself a dummy wife and a fake lawyer to obtain a divorce on mutual consent from a Delhi family court. Sarabjit even stood in court and agreed to give the custody of their child to Gurpal. The case was decided in his favour on a day Gurpal was in her school on exam duty.

To add insult to injury, Sarabjit allegedly did all this while he was regularly visiting his home in Delhi and staying with Gurpal.

Delhi High Court revoked the divorce last week and issued guidelines to check such fraudulent divorces. (See chart)

“It is a settled position of law that a judgment or decree obtained by playing fraud on the court is nullity and non est in the eyes of law,” Justice Kailash Gambhir said while imposing an exemplary cost of Rs 2 lakh on Sarabjit.

No further punishment was awarded to him since the case related only to the status of the divorce order passed by a lower court. But Gurpal is likely to bring forgery charges against Sarabjit and file a fresh application for divorce, her lawyer said.

Sarabjit’s second marriage too stands automatically anulled.

After Gurpal had approached the court in 2009, a forensic laboratory was asked to compare her signature with that of the alleged impostor. They did not match.

The court also found out that there was “no advocate with the name of Ms Ranjana Kaur” (who represented Sarabjit and the dummy wife) on the rolls of the Bar Council of Delhi or elsewhere.

“Not only (had) the appellant husband produced some impostor in place of the respondent wife... (he) had the audacity and temerity to take the help of some other lady who impostered herself to represent both the parties as an advocate,” the court said.

Similar frauds have been reported earlier too, for instance, by an engineer from Coimbatore who produced a proxy wife in a divorce court. The most astounding example is that of a Haryana couple neither of whom knew they had been divorced for 10 long years.

The fraud, committed by a relative, came out when the woman approached the courts to file a case of violence against her in-laws.

Delhi High Court said it was “quite evident” that “there is some legal brain who must have encouraged the appellant husband (Sarabjit) in committing such murky and fraudulent acts”.

It added: “This court has no hesitation in holding that the appellant husband has committed serious fraud not only upon the respondent wife but upon the court as well.”