Suparna Ghosh was not ready to grant husband Tapan a divorce. So, Tapan decided to take the easy way out. He hired a man and a woman for two days. The first day, they went to the marriage registrar’s office, expressing their intent to get married. The second day, a month later, they got married. The woman, of course, signed on the dotted line as Suparna Ghosh.
Tapan went to court in Howrah the next day and produced papers to show that his wife, Suparna Ghosh, had remarried. He not only got his divorce without a hitch, he also landed Suparna in trouble for marrying a second time without the first marriage being annulled.
State law department officials say this is not an isolated case. For men desperate to part ways with their wives — or women determined to drop their husbands — a dubious dual-role route out of marriages is opening up. Stuck with spouses reluctant to let go, they can now get wives or husbands on hire for a ‘proxy’ divorce.
Court officials warn that men or women willing to pose as estranged life-partners for a price, in front of judge or marriage registrar, are definitely on the rise. The law department is tackling the problem with a few innovations. For instance, judges in Alipore court are not hearing divorce cases without checking the photographs of both husband and wife. But there is now a call to amend the rules on divorce and plug the loopholes.
Officials say the department has received over 80 complaints — pertaining to the four courts in and around the city — from wives who claim they do not know anything about their own “consents to divorce”. There have been instances of the postal department being manipulated as well — to “divert” a court summons from the real to the hired wife — they add.
Sangita Datta filed a complaint in a Howrah court, alleging that her husband had got a divorce by “mutual consent”, although she had not appeared before the judge. A probe revealed that her husband, Swapan, had hired a woman who appeared before the judge as Sangita Datta and stated that she had no objection to the divorce.
Another woman to receive a rude shock was Nayanika Biswas, wife of an advocate. One day, she received a court paper stating her husband had been granted a divorce in an ex-parte hearing, as she had “not attended” hearings despite summons. She confronted her husband, who admitted that he was keen to marry a junior in court and had “paid something” to the local post office to ensure she did not receive the court summons.
“Husbands are filing for divorce and getting it without their wives’ knowledge,” said Calcutta High Court advocate Biswajit Basu. “This is a matter of the gravest importance.” One of Basu’s clients, who suffered such a fate, has now demanded that such summons be despatched through a court bailiff.
A law department official said court officials have been asked to take on the responsibility of sending “important” documents to respondents. “We have asked for more concrete proposals to check this malpractice,” said law minister Nisith Adhikari.