"It is a conflict between 'Bharat' and India."
This is how the Delhi high court described a situation in which Border Security Force authorities sacked a constable on charges of bigamy without recognising the divorce validated by a village panchayat.
The high court rapped the BSF for not being "pragmatic" and taking a technical view by not recognising the stamp of approval by a court of law to the divorce granted by the panchayat to Shiv Ram on the ground that it was not in consonance with the Hindu Marriage Act.
"It is observed more in breach rather than in compliance in rural areas. The reason appears to be that rural society is not in sync with the modern ethos which the city-bred propagates," a bench headed by justice Pradeep Nandrajog said, while ordering reinstatement of Ram.
"We allow the petition and quash orders (of inquiry committees) and direct petitioner (Shiv Ram) to be reinstated. Sans wages, he would be entitled to consequential benefits," it said, asking BSF to comply with the order in six weeks.
Ram, a resident of Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh, married a girl in 2000. As differences cropped up, a village panchayat allowed them to separate and asked Ram to pay her alimony.
Later, Ram's first wife re-married and he also wed another girl. However, his woes began when his second wife and her parents complained to BSF authorities accusing him of bigamy as his customary divorce was validated by a 'panchayat' and not by a court of law.