• Monday, May 16, 2022

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UK court sets aside divorce over ‘forged signature’

A UK court, which set aside the divorce of an Indian-origin couple, said the wife’s signature was forged by or on behalf of the husband. (Representational image: iStock)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

AN INDIAN-ORIGIN couple’s divorce has been set aside by a UK court after the judge concluded that the wife had no notice of the proceedings as her signature was forged 12 years ago.

Rachpal and Kewal Randhawa were married at a registry office in Slough, south-east England, in August 1978 aged 19 and 16 respectively.

The husband went on to file for divorce in 2010 on the grounds that the marriage had “irretrievably broken down” after an alleged separation in 2009 and moving in with Satwinder Kaur.

His wife, however, contended that they remained married although separated and even attended family functions as husband and wife, though she was aware of some “rumours” that her husband had a child with another woman.

“It is clear to me that in 2010, Mr Randhawa had a vested interest to be divorced from Mrs Randhawa. He was the only one of the parties who had an involvement in the divorce process… I find that Mrs Randhawa did not have notice of the divorce proceedings,” Judge Kambiz Moradifar said in his family court judgment last month.

“Mrs Randhawa’s purported signature on the Acknowledgement of Service form dated 11 February 2010 is a forgery. The said signature was forged by or on behalf of Mr Randhawa. Accordingly, the decree of divorce granted consequent upon the petition for divorce dated January 22, 2010, must be set aside,” he concluded.

According to the court documents, the woman had no knowledge of the divorce until she petitioned for judicial separation in December 2019. The matter has since proceeded on a “contested basis”, with the case delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The husband, who re-married in 2011 and has a child with his new wife, could be classed as a bigamist if the second marriage was legally registered under English law.

He gave evidence to explain that the divorce petition was typed by his friend Amrit Singh Bophal, after providing him with the “necessary information”. The court noted that he could not explain why he did not ask a solicitor to assist in the paperwork.

The couple have four children from their marriage, some of whom also gave evidence in the court, highlighting a “very difficult relationship” between their parents. The court noted the loss of a son aged 14 in 2003, which “devastated” the family.

The husband claimed she was fully aware and engaged in the divorce process. However, for “cultural reasons and out of concern or to save embarrassment for their children”, they kept the divorce a secret.

Given the “unusual features” of the case, the judge noted that the long-drawn legal battle involved a “wider than usual” enquiry into the relationships and business transactions of the family.

“The evidence has highlighted some very concerning conduct on behalf of the parties,” he ruled.

(PTI)

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