| Prashant Upadhyay and Shilpi Agarwal. Pictures by Gautam Dey
Dhanbad, Oct. 6: Police have taken custody of a girl who claims to have married her lover against the wishes of her family, which is now persuading her to tie the knot elsewhere.
Shilpi Agarwal (22) has refused to return to the home of her father Jagmohan Agarwal, a business of Digwadih in Jharia, who apparently made her come back from Delhi where she was staying with husband Prashant Upadhyay, after telling her that the family had accepted the match.
Shilpi returned to Dhanbad on September 6, three days after getting the marriage recorded before an oath commissioner, but Agarwal bluntly told his daughter he did not recognise the wedding. Shilpi, he said, would have to tie the knot with a Jodhpur businessman she was already engaged to.
With the girl’s family refusing to budge, Prashant approached the National Commission for Women, through which he filed a complaint petition in Delhi High Court on Wednesday, accusing Agarwal and his family of forcefully detaining his bride.
He then contacted the Dhanbad superintendent of police, who advised him to come to the city.
The high court has asked Shilpi to appear before it on October 22 and record her statement, but her father refuses to let her go. “Who will take responsibility if something happens to her before she appears in the court,” said Agarwal.
Yesterday, Shilpi managed to sneak out of her home and approached the nearby Jorapokhar police station, whose officials heard her out and agreed to her request that she be allowed to stay in their custody.
Dhanbad superintendent of police Shital Oraon said the department had little role in the matter.
“The girl’s father is demanding a guarantee from the police that the boy’s family members will not kill her if she is allowed to go with them. How can we guarantee it' At the same time the girl is not ready to go to her father, which is why she is in the police station. Moreover there is no case with us so far. We can’t do anything as a case is already there in Delhi High Court,” he said.
Shilpi, a graduate of Sindri College, came in touch with Prashant (26) at an online social networking portal four years ago. The relationship deepened and the two decided to get married this year. Prashant, son of a Calcutta businessman, is an electrical goods supplier in New Delhi.
The couple had decided to get married but they had to hasten it after Shilpi’s engagement in July. Prashant says he was unacceptable to the Agarwals as he was from a different caste and financially “not so well-off”.
This prompted the couple to elope to Delhi on September 2. The next day, they went to the Tis Hazari court and got married through an affidavit signed and sealed by an oath commissioner. “We had no time to get the marriage registered. We would have done so shortly,” said Prashant.
Agarwal says the affidavit has no legal validity and cannot be seen as record of marriage. Besides, he claimed, his daughter has been suffering from “mental disorders” ever since she lost her mother five years ago.
“If somebody cajoles her into taking a wrong step, should I as her father give in to her whims rather than making her understand' We had got her engaged to a businessman in Jodhpur in July and the marriage is to be solemnised in December,” he said.
Legal experts, however, said an affidavit signed before an oath commissioner has the validity of a marriage-certifying document though subsequent registry is a must.
“An affidavit is a joint declaration of both parties with family and birth-proof that both are ready to marry. It is approved by the notary or the oath commissioner before whom the declaration is made that they are husband and wife,” said Lopamudra Chakraborty, a Dhanbad lawyer.
Prashant’s mother Shobha Upadhyay said Shilpi was now the bahu of the family, hence they had come to take her back.