Monday, November 19, 2012

The dangers of getting married in India (From Asian Image)


There is a sizeable number of British Indians in UK and often our folks with Indian background in UK travel abroad to get married in India. Although there is a certain expectation regarding what lies ahead, sometimes not all is as rosy as it may seem.

The Royal weddings of India are a thing of the past and the Arun-Hurley weddings are not for the mere mortals. Weddings in India are marred with certain dangers and this article addresses just one of those. In the early 60’s Indian Government passed a Dowry Prohibition Act. In 1983, Indian Government passed an amendment to the Indian Penal Code at section 498a against the dowry practices in India. At that time the Indian community hailed its creation and expected the law to end the concept of dowry. Although this law was meant to protect wives, it has been abused blatantly, more so in the last decade.

Section 498A makes the assumption that the husband and his family are presumed to be guilty of the alleged crime. The legal system considers all complaints filed by the wives to be genuine and immediately actionable. The same is achieved easily as this law is a Cognizable offence and hence Investigation agencies have little or no way of rejecting a complaint as else it may affect their jobs under the pressure of National & State Commission of Women.

There is a guaranteed loss of dignity, liberty and freedom of husbands and their families. Since, this Section has been made non-bailable, they are arrested and jailed immediately requiring neither a prima facie investigation nor presentation of probable cause to the magistrate.

It won’t be wrong to say that filing this case is as easy as ordering a Pizza in London. There is no penalty or fine for the misuse of 498a or any legal repercussions even if the allegations are found to be fabricated with a bunch of lies. This law enjoys the status of less than 5% conviction rate and hence almost in 95% cases, the accused family gets harassed for years financially, socially, and emotionally undergoing the trial.

The law can easily boast of having the record of putting infants and kids behind bars as well as putting aged senior citizens above 90 years of age behind bars too. There has been large number of cases of such misuse of law from all across the world, especially from the developed countries. Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and those who are Citizens of developed countries seem to be most vulnerable to this misuse.

They face demands of thousands of pounds to withdraw cases and are also known to be coerced to give visas to the wives’ and their families. The basic reason for this is the unfounded view in India that everyone in developed countries is rich and is an easy bait to extort money and get visas. Looking at numerous false cases against people from abroad, even the Supreme Court of India has labelled it as “Legal Terrorism”.

There have been many instances where the police have arrested elderly parents and even grandparents, unmarried sisters, pregnant sister-in-laws and even children without proper investigation. Indian women have started to misuse this law to harass husband especially when faced with strained or failed marriages. In most instances, such women make false allegations out of vindictiveness or to extort money out of the husband. Such large scale abuse of this law by some unscrupulous women and their families has taken a huge toll on the personal and professional lives of Indians residing in UK.

One such person is Dr Dharmesh Khatri (name changed) who had to suffer huge losses financially and professionally. He lost a portion of his training, something which had never happened in his professional career. His wife Rashmi (name changed) often threatened him with money extortion if he did not obey her wishes. The stress of being in the marriage was such that he started contemplating suicide and suffered raised levels of thyroid hormones and required specialist medical input. Although he has been separated, the threats of false 498A continue. The reason that it is currently threats only is primarily because he had transferred money into her account before and after marriage on numerous occasions out of goodwill gesture and has records of these.

Mr Harish Mehta (name changed), a British Resident went to India with his wife and son for Diwali. Mr Mehta came back earlier due to workcommitments and his wife stayed back with his son for some more time.
His wife disappeared with his son and was not traceable. With the help of police, and after searching for more than 6 months, she was found. She filed a child custody case, which she lost. She then filed the false 498a case followed by Domestic Violence case against Mr Mehta and his family.
Mr Mehta is still fighting for these cases and has to fly to India frequently while he is on leave without pay. He and his family have been deprived from meeting his son. This has not only affected his health, but also broken him down financially and emotionally.

The legal system in India considers all complaints filed by women to be genuine by default and hence this law is being used as a weapon to blackmail, extort money from or seek revenge on residents in UK. Some such residents who married in India have been arrested, ill-treated and exploited in the name of dowry laws.

The abuse of this law has hampered the progress of hundreds of such men and their families whose intellectual abilities and professional skills are highly valued all across the globe. Many such British Indians trapped in false cases have to travel to India, wasting their valuable time, efforts and money to fight these cases and even ending up losing Jobs and even Arrested under “Red Corner Notices” and even sometimes extradited as a Criminal. Due to the shoddy legal system in India, such cases drag for years on end.

Although the Supreme Court of India has labelled it as “legal terrorism” and has suggested altering the law, due to political pressures the law continues to remain as it is and continues to be abused. Although, there is no foolproof method that one can take to protect oneself and his family members, few proper precautions can be taken.

If a British Indian does wish to get married to a woman from India, there are certain steps he can take as a precaution.
(a) Keep a record of all gifts taken and received during and after marriage (signed by both bride and groom). The list needs to be as per the Dowry Prohibition Act norms in India.
(b) If you are travelling to India, make copies of your passport, visa (if applicable) and all credit cards. Leave these copies with a trusted friend or relative in UK.
(c) Do not give anyone your tickets or passport in India.
(d) Register with the local Foreigners Registration Office upon arrival in India and let them know your expected date of departure.
(e) Inform the British Consulate and/or Embassy in India about your travel plans.
(f) If you suspect that you may be a victim of this abuse, inform the British Consulate and/or Embassy in India and finally
(g) Although not legally valid in India; consider a prenuptial agreement.

A support group has been formed in the UK for those who have unfortunately been trapped and have been victims in past. The support group meets often all across UK and provides legal and moral support to such people and their families. The support group has started an e-petition to the UK government at:
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/30913




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