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6.9.10

Would you "divorce'' your spouse for a flat in an upscale neighbourhood in Mumbai? In a case that illustrates the extent to which Mumbaikars will go for a roof over their heads in the city, a Bandra resident produced a "divorce deed'' to prove that she was estranged from her husband and eligible for a 3BHK Mhada flat in Versova.

The matter came to light when one of the unsuccessful aspirants to the flat challenged Mhada's allotment, claiming the Bandra resident was still living with her husband and the "divorce deed'' was fabricated.

 
 In December 2008, Mhada had invited applications for the allotment of HIG flats—measuring over 900 sq ft and costing Rs 56.24 lakh each—in Versova, Andheri. The market value for a similar flat in the area, according to conservative estimates, would be over Rs 2 crore.

Forty-seven-year-old Seema Pawar applied for a flat and won the lottery. But one of the conditions for the allotment was that the applicant or his/her spouse must not own a flat within BMC limits. Seema filed an affidavit stating her family didn't.

Subhas Savaskar, who did not win the lottery and was placed on the waiting list, approached Mhada in July 2009 and complained that Seema's husband Rahul Pawar (57) owned a flat in Bandra Reclamation.

When Mhada sought an explanation from Seema, she claimed the flat was owned by her sister-in-law and her family had rented the place. Mhada's chief vigilance officer, however, found out from the housing society in January 2010 that Rahul owned the flat.

Mhada once again issued a notice to Seema, asking why a first information report should not be lodged against her. Seema replied in May this year that she had divorced her husband way back in March 2008 and furnished a "divorce deed by mutual consent''.

Savaskar finally moved the high court when Mhada failed to take any action. "The divorce deed was drawn up on a Rs 100 stamp paper,'' said Shoaib Memon, the counsel for Savaskar, adding that such a document was totally illegal. "It has no sanctity in the eyes of the law.''

Abercrombie Fitch Couple StandingUnder the Hindu Marriage Act, a divorce can be obtained only by filing a petition in the family court. "A Hindu marriage cannot be dissolved by a written deed or through an out-of-court settlement,'' said Memon.

The petitioner also pointed out that the stamp paper itself was suspect; there was no serial number on the document and it was signed by an advocate instead of the couple. The petition also alleged that the couple were still mentioned in the voters' list as sharing the same apartment in Bandra.

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