Explained: The Legal Questions That Emerge With Nusrat Jahan's Claim That She Was Never Married To Nikhil Jain
While the Jahan-Jain marriage may not be legally registered, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Jahan put up a public image completely as the legally married wife of Nikhil Jain.
In an explosive letter, Trinamool MP Nusrat Jahan on 9 June claimed her marriage with businessman Nikhil Jain was not a legal marriage but a live-in relationship.
Jahan said that their wedding took place in Turkey, and did not have recognition under the Indian law.
Jahan’s statements regarding her never being married took the social media by a storm. The actress is now reportedly in a relationship with actor and BJP assembly poll candidate Yash Dasgupta. Both have worked on multiple projects together.
In the letter, she alleged that Nikhil Jain, even post separation, accessed and misappropriated funds from her accounts.
Jain, on the other hand, has claimed that Jahan changed her behaviour towards him since August last year when she was shooting a film, and she left his home with her belongings in November 2020. He also denied the allegations of accessing her finances after their separation saying, "The allegations made by her are all baseless and derogatory and devoid of truth."
He alleged that she had avoided always his requests to get the marriage registered, and has reportedly filed an annulment petition before the Alipore Judges’ Court.
Legal Status of Nusrat Jahan’s Marriage
Indian law recognises the validity of foreign marriages if at least one of the parties is an Indian citizen. However, they need to be registered under the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.
The couple can get their marriage registered by the Marriage Officer deputed in the Indian Consulate in the concerned foreign country. They are issued a certificate of registration under section 14 of the Foreign Marriage Act.
In the case of interfaith couples, it is the Special Marriage Act that governs annulment, divorce, judicial separation, etc. for such marriages.
If Jahan-Jain marriage was not registered, then it may indeed have no legal standing in India. However, if it was registered in Turkey in accordance with Turkish law, then they may have to resort to Turkish law to get a divorce.
Divorce/Annulment Without Marriage?
In case the marriage is not registered in India, Jahan and Jain would be deemed as a couple in a ‘live-in relationship’, a term which doesn’t appear as it is in Indian laws.
However, the courts have increasingly taken note of the changing social mores and increasing popularity of such relationships. In the past, the courts have directed police to give protection to couples in live-in relationships. Madras High Court is considering whether a woman in a live-in relationship can have a right to pensionary benefits of her partner.
Punjab High Court has also grappled with difficult questions regarding legality of live-in relationships.
The status of Jahan-Jain relationship will have repercussions on disputes over division of property etc. With Nusrat claiming that there was no marriage, she would not have any rights or any claim over her husband’s property. She can still claim relief under separate criminal laws. Jain may also have to do the same.
Fraud Or Not?
Jahan-Jain marriage may not be legally registered but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Jahan put up a public image completely as the legally married wife of Nikhil Jain.
Nusrat Jahan while taking oath in the Parliament included the word Jain in her name. Her Lok Sabha profile shows her marital status as “married” with Nikhil Jain named as spouse. She had started wearing sindoor, mehendi, and other articles, which have been traditionally associated with a Hindu wife.
Over the controversy, Bengal BJP leader Dilip Ghosh called the TMC MP a fraud.
"What a fraud. A person who was given a ticket by TMC, took oath, now says she was not even married. However, she wore sindoor, dragged a rath, conducted pujas, and won the election," he said.
Ghosh was referring to the rath yatra organised by ISCKON in Kolkata in 2019 in which Jain and Jahan participated as a couple.
"How did Mamata Banerjee go to one's wedding when the person was not even married. Wearing sindoor, people are getting pregnant, and then claiming to be unmarried," asked Ghosh.
Jahan has reportedly confirmed her pregnancy, and was seen sporting a baby bump In a photograph that has gone viral on social media.
People have also questioned whether Jahan put up a show just for winning the elections.
The question is, what is the endgame of Jahan’s denial of marriage with Jain, when she very well knows that she acted completely as his wife (had the wedding ceremony taken place in India, even without registration, the couple would be married in the eyes of law).
It could be the case that she wants to avoid the label of an ‘adulterer’.
If she was married, her alleged relationship with Yash Dasgupta would be categorised as ‘adultery’ in the eyes of the law, as well as the society.
Adultery is recognised as a crime under section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, under which, the male partner of the married woman can be punished. However, Supreme Court in 2018 decriminalised adultery.
Even so, Jahan can face breach of privilege proceedings in the Parliament, criminal cases, including cheating, criminal breach of trust, outraging religious feelings, defamation etc. for her conduct.
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