Runaway couples may be frowned upon by their village folks and parents, but they definitely put a smile on the faces of institutions and advocates cashing in on a new, lucrative business — that of runaway marriages.
Though Punjab and Haryana high court has questioned the validity of marriage certificates of runaway couples issued by temples, gurdwaras and other such institutions in the city, this business still remains a lucrative one and a money-spinner for many who continue to offer "marriage packages".
Young couples from villages in Punjab and Haryana can be seen flocking to Chandigarh to get marriages solemnised. Such couples also are a source of income for religious bodies that solemnise their marriages. This is despite Punjab and Haryana high court restraining what it termed as "marriage shops" from issuing marriage certificates, which become the basis of protection applications and registration of such marriages in the city.
These couples constitute a major source of earning for certain section lawyers of district courts who are doing brisk business by moving protection petitions for these couples as well as getting their marriages registered.
There are more than two dozen gurdwaras and temples in and around Chandigarh that solemnise all kinds of marriages - love, inter-caste, inter-religion, NRI or any other - with a certificate, and a ceremony of the religion as per the couple's liking - Anand Karaj for a Sikh marriage or Saptapadi for a Hindu wedding. All one needs in hand is lots of money.
Most runaway couples are from Nawashar in Punjab and from Haryana, especially areas like Jhajjar where khap panchayats are dominant. Also, some come from Jammu.
The lone gurdwara in Chandigarh's Sector 21 and a few temples in Sector 19 and neighbouring Nayagoan village are the most known for runaway marriages.
But what does a couple need to get married like this? A lawyer, who prefers to keep his identity secret, says: "The couple needs to have their date of birth certificates to prove both are adults. In the absence of birth certificates, affidavits authenticating their age can be used."
"For getting marriages registered all they need to have is a certificate from the temple and a photograph of the marriage being solemnized," the lawyer adds.
He says that advocates come into picture when the affidavits are to prepare and later when they have to seek protection from court and get their marriages registered. "On the basis of the certificate issued by the mandir or gurdwara, we move a protection petition for runaway couples who get married. It can cost anything between Rs 20,000 to Rs 27,000," says advocate Gagan Aggarwal.
Another advocate, Rohit Khullar, adds: "Despite orders of the high court restraining religious institutes from issuing certificates certifying marriages, these are still issued. On an average, about 15 to 20 marriages are solemnised at more than two dozen institutions, gurdwaras and temples, located in and around Chandigarh, in a day."
What you have to pay
1) An advocate charges anything between R20,000 and R27,000. The price varies depending on the services undertaken. The fee would include for services such as making affidavits for age proof, photographs, moving protection petition and getting marriages registered. In case the couple has got married and just wants protection, it will have to pay between R20,000 and R25,000. For marriage in temple charges around Rs 3000 to Rs 7000
2) At a gurdwara, a couple will have to pay around R5000 to R6000
3) A photographer will charge Rs 500 to Rs 1,000
4) Few temples even provide other requirements of a marriage such as chura, chunni and pagri, which can either be taken on rent or can be bought for an extra cost.
Protection petitions choke high court
On an average, nearly 20-25 runaway couples file petitions in the high court to seek protection. The number is so high in spite of many such couples seeking protection from district courts. During vacations, Punjab and Haryana high court has heard 116 petitions in seven days. Of these petitions, 94 were by couples from Punjab, 21 from Haryana and one from Chandigarh.