Bengal: Fake registrars mar matches made in heaven
The Mamata Banerjee administration has launched a probe to find out how many fake registrars are operating in the state. The government will punish them, said state law minister Malay Ghatak.kolkata Updated: Jan 23, 2018 10:13 IST
Deben Sen, a mid-level executive of a foreign bank and Shoumili Sen (names changed), who works for an Internet service provider, had to get married 18 months after their marriage, when she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy. But they were not live-in partners who hurriedly exchanged garlands before an idol in a temple.
In February 2016, the Sens got married in the proper way and registered it as required by law. But a chance glance at a small newspaper item in mid 2017 about police arresting a fake registrar came as a bolt from the blue.
“The news was about the registrar who formalised our marriage. We consulted a lawyer who advised us to immediately get married again. Otherwise, the results could have been disastrous,” said Deben Sen with a smile.
Lawyers say that such a document carries dangerous implications apart from the possibility of being arrested by the police and face charges under section 420 (cheating) and sections 465 and 467 (forgery) of IPC. These sections all carry a jail term that can extend up to seven years.
The Sens are not alone. Hundreds of couples are facing extreme harassment as they have become victims of fake marriage registrars, who are of two types – those who never had licenses to work as marriage registrars and those who have kept working beyond the age ceiling of 65 years.
In June 2017, a couple of Hooghly district – both state government officers – discovered they were victims of a fake registrar. The couple, in their mid-forties, has a teenage boy.
The Hooghly-based couple promptly brought the matter to the notice of the state legal department that has now initiated a drive to locate such fake registrars who are preying on unsuspecting couples.
“We have already launched a probe to find out how many fake registrars are operating in the state. We will not only identify but also punish them,” said law minister Malay Ghatak.
A legal department official said officers from the department are sent to the districts from where fake registrars are reported. “Already 25 FIRs have been filed against fake registrars in the past six months. Half a dozen fake registrars have been nabbed,” he said.
“We have no idea of the number of those operating illegally,” said the official.
The districts where these FIRs are filed include Kolkata, South 24 Parganas, Jalpaiguri, Murshidabad, Hooghly, West Mindapore, East Midnapore and Cooch Behar.
Currently there are about 1,500 bonafide marriage officers operating in the state.
Criminal lawyers point out to extreme harassments victims can face. “A marriage certificate issued by a fake registrar is invalid. Therefore, the marriage is invalid. A child born out this ‘wedlock’ is, therefore, illegitimate. If the fake certificate comes to light after the birth of the child, they have to not only get registered after childbirth, but also legally adopt the child to give him or her status of their legal heir,” said Kaushik Gupta, who practices criminal law in Calcutta high court.
There are more ominous implications relating to inheritance of property, insurance policies and provident fund. “Usually, the spouse is the nominee for insurance policies or provident fund. But in case of an invalid marriage, the immediate blood relation of the victim of fake registration can claim the money,” explained Gupta.
Perhaps more terrifying is the third possibility. If anyone furnishes fake certificates, even unknowingly, he or she is liable to be booked under section 465 of Indian Penal Code, which is related to forgery. “Marriage certificates are necessary for change of surnames in passport after marriage, and if the forgery is detected, one can land in jail,” said the lawyer.
When the victims get their marriage registered again, there is no chance of getting it with retrospective effect. The date of marriage also shifts to the new date.
According to the secretary of All Bengal Marriage Officers’ Association, Jayanta Mitra, fake marriage registrars are mainly of two types. “The first category includes some court clerks, who operate with fake licenses. The second category comprises former genuine registrars operating with expired registrations as they are past the maximum permissible age of 68,” he said.
The fees of a registrar are Rs 100 under Hindu Act and Rs 150 under Special Act. But often couples pay more adding tips to it.