Mumbai: Almost 26 years after Girish Mehta (name changed) re-married in the US, he will now have to stand trial for bigamy in Mumbai. The Bombay High Court last week rejected Mehta`s application seeking quashing of the bigamy case filed against him by his Mumbai-based first wife, Lata (name changed).
Justice Abhay Oka in his July 30 order held that the divorce obtained by Girish in 1983 in a US court is not valid. Girish, who lives in California and has two children from his second marriage, could face up to seven years in jail if convicted of bigamy.
Lata had initiated bigamy proceedings against Girish in 1996 in a Mumbai court, stating that the divorce obtained by Girish in her absence in a US court was not valid, and thus he had committed an offence by remarrying. Girish and Lata were married in 1972 in a lavish ceremony in Mumbai`s Taj Mahal Hotel. The couple stayed in Mumbai for six years, after which Girish moved to the US for better job prospects. Lata and their son regularly visited Girish in USA. They stayed with Girish for nine months between 1982 and 1983, during which period differences arose between the couple and Lata returned to Mumbai.
Meanwhile Girish moved an Illinois court seeking dissolution of his marriage with Lata.
According to his petition, he was unaware about where Lata was residing. In keeping with the Illinois laws, he published notices in local newspapers for Lata to appear in court.
Finally, in November 1983, the Illinois court passed an order dissolving the marriage without hearing Lata. Lata, who lives in Worli, instituted bigamy proceedings against Girish in a Mumbai court. Girish had moved the HC in 2001 to quash the case. His counsel Tejas Bhatt argued that the US court`s divorce order was valid and thus his client had not committed any offence by remarrying. He also pointed out that in this case the mandatory sanction from the Centre for prosecuting an offender for an offence committed outside India has not been obtained.
Lata`s lawyer Abad Ponda pointed out that his client had already moved the Mumbai family court and got the ex-parte US divorce decree declared invalid in 2003. The HC has upheld the family court ruling.
It also held that the mandatory sanction from the Centre can be obtained at any time before the trial begins.