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Is there an alimony scam in India?

Rajesh Vakharia

There are 500,000 marriages are breaking every year. This number may look small compared to a total population of 125 crores. However when we compared this number with 85 lakh marriages per year, the marriage breakdown rate is almost 7%.

One time alimony payments have become a nightmare for separated young men in India. When a matrimonial dispute reaches courts and police stations, all discussions and coercion is centered around how much alimony a man can give to his estranged spouse during divorce. Mediators in Courts and police stations make the couple go through this monetary negotiation.

It has become a nightmare for thousands of young men facing matrimonial problems as huge amounts of alimony are expected out of them.

For example, a typical software Engineer earning Rupees 10 lakhs per annum is expected to pay a one time alimony of 50 lakhs to 70 lakhs. The estranged wife, her parents, the mediators at court and police stations coerce the man to cough up such big amounts.

It is common practice during mediations in courts and police stations to coerce young men to pay 5 to 7 years of their total income as alimony. Mediators try to convince the man that he should pay up to avoid facing prolonged litigation and criminal cases of section 498a.

So, the inability of the man to arrange for such a huge amount of money only makes his situation worse. Men and even their old parents are forced to attend these mediation sessions every month in the name of marital counseling or investigation. Refusing to attend such hostile sessions is treated as lack of cooperation or contempt on the part of the man and his parents.

When a man refuses to pay such huge sums as alimony, first information report (FIR) under section 498a or dowry law are filed. The man, his parents and even his siblings are made to run around courts for years like criminals. Courts only lament about such false cases, but they rarely punish anyone for filing false cases.

Section 498a is used as a tool to extort huge sums of alimony from young husbands. This is why the misuse of this law is so widespread.

While, it is common belief that if an educated young couple decide to separate due to any reason, there will not be any alimony. However the ground realities are something entirely different. In India, the courts expect men to pay huge alimonies even when their wives are working in MNCs and earn very good salary.

Today,  matrimonial litigation between a couple does not remain limited to one court. Due to our complicated laws and inefficient legal system, one matrimonial problem is handled by 4 to 6 courts.

So, a young man and his parents facing matrimonial problems have to run around 4 to 6 courts over a period of 5 to 6 years. The system does not give them much choice. Either they can cough up huge sums of money as alimony for a settlement and divorce or they have to run around courts.

This dire situation has forced thousands of young men to commit suicide.

SIFF demands the Government and Courts to simplify the process and urges them to stop human rights violations in the name of counseling and reconcilliation.

The demands are as follows:

  • Government and Courts must investigate the alimony scam that is so prevalent today.
  • Serious action has to be taken against police and court mediators, who are using counseling as an excuse to threaten and coerce men to cough up money.
  • Matters related to alimony have to be only handled by a family court and no other agency must be allowed to get involved in this process.
  • Courts must make guidelines for deciding alimony based on duration of marriage.
  • One time alimony must not be more than half of the savings of a man for the duration of the marriage.
  • There must be punishment and fine for people who file false cases of Section 498a.

Today, this alimony scam has become 10 times worse than the dowry problem and if this scam continues, soon people will lose all the trust on police and the court system. Once strict action is taken to stop this illegal practice of threatening people to make them cough up huge sums as alimony, it will automatically reduce the practice of misuse of various matrimonial laws.


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