MUMBAI: In the street outside the metropolitan court in Bandra (E), a fiendish business is flourishing. The business of concocting illegal divorces and getting innocents to sign away their lives.
On Anant Kanekar Marg outside the Bandra court, lawyers and notaries solicit business like roadside hawkers. Most register marriages on the spot and some give couples an instant 'divorce by mutual consent'.
But though the process is entirely illegal, lawyers point out that it is being increasingly used by men to cheat their illiterate wives into signing away their rights, including the custody of their children.
When the women realise what has happened, they are told that they have been divorced, not realising that the papers do not hold in a court of law.
Ironically, the State Women's Commission is a stone's throw away from the place where women are exploited so regularly.
One such shocking case is that of Sarita Kale (name changed), who lived with her husband and three children, aged eight, five and two years, in a chawl in Kandivli.
Abused by her husband ever since their marriage, Sarita bore his physical violence and demands for money and property since she had been disowned by her parents who were against the match.
On August 2, Sarita's husband walked into the house and picked yet another quarrel with her, saying that he wanted to divorce her and remarry. Sarita, in great pain from the serious burns she had sustained two days before, finally gave in, though she was still unsure what he intended to do.
"He bundled me into a rickshaw and took me straight to the notaries in Bandra. There, a paper was handed to me, and in daze of pain and shock, I signed it. He paid the lawyers Rs 3000 by pawning the only pieces of jewellery I had left," recounts Sarita.