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Knot legal, says Maji

The July marriage of national-level shooter Tara Shahdeo to a man with two identities — Rakibul Hassan and Ranjit Singh Kohli — and her subsequent allegations of going through an incomplete Hindu marriage and a forced Islam nikah has prompted women’s commission boss Mahua Maji to launch a drive on making Jharkhand Marriage Act (2006) more stringent.

Though the Act — which contains provisions of Acts related to marriages including Hindu, Muslim, civil and special — was enforced in 2007, compliance rate is poor, resulting in fake weddings without legal validity, making wives vulnerable to physical abuse and abandonment.

That Tara, an educated girl hailing from Palkot’s royal family in Gumla, and a sportsperson of repute, fell victim to an alleged fake marriage and torture raises the question of what women from more modest backgrounds undergo.

According to Tara, husband Raqibul posing as Ranjit married her on July 7 according to Hindu rituals but refused to observe the ritual of saptpadi or seven rounds around the fire, commonly known as saat phere.

Under Section 7, sub-section 2 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, saptpadi is mandatory for solemnising a marriage.

Jharkhand State Commission for Women chairperson Mahua Maji told The Telegraph that after the Supreme Court made marriage registrations compulsory in 2006, every state, including Jharkhand, made their own Acts and enforced them.

On Tara, whom Maji met on Saturday and talked exclusively for over an hour, she said: “The charge of forcing her to change her religion is highly objectionable but this is also a case of fake marriage. Refusing saat phere is no common crime. Under the Hindu Marriage Act, though all rituals prescribed under customs are important, saat phere is mandatory,” Maji explained.

She added: “Jharkhand Marriage Act states registration of all marriages is mandatory for all communities within two months of the ritual. We come across many cases where girls say shaadi karke chhod diya (he left me after marriage), where they think marriage means going to the temple and the man putting sindoor on her hair parting.”

At present, the panel is dealing with 400 cases where girls were dumped after marriage. But, many don’t fall under the category of marriage if seen through legal lens. “The recent case (Tara) has given me enough reasons for alarm. I will write to the state to see what amendments can make Jharkhand Marriage Act more strict. I will request the state to publicise the Act,” Maji said.