Hindu Bride Wins Back Dowry (28.04.2000)

A Hindu bride whose marriage ended after less than three months has won an unprecedented legal fight to get back her dowry.  Bobita Verma, 23, a mortgage consultant from Bradford, has successfully sued the groom’s parents for the return of wedding gifts, believed to be worth several thousand pounds.  It is the first public judgment in England on an Asian maritial dispute and is expected to encourage other brides in the same position to come forward.  Miss Verma said: “I have done something that a lot of other girls would have felt ashamed to do. Even though there is nothing to be ashamed of, they would have felt ashamed.”  Bradford Crown Court found in Miss Verma’s favour after a three-year legal battle.   Her in-laws, Balkrishan and Radha Verma, must now return the dowry or the monetary equivalent. Its value will be set at a further court hearing.  Bobita and Rakesh Verma, 29, married in August 1996 and the bride was given a dowry – to be looked after by her in-laws – including a traditional Indian tapestry and a bed, by her parents, Faqir and Shanti Verma.  Within months the marriage fell apart and Miss Verma moved back to her parent’s house in Bradford.Divorce  Her husband filed for divorce, which was granted last year, on grounds of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  When she went to collect the wedding gifts from her in-laws house she was not allowed in.  Usha Sood, a barrister representing dozens of women fighting to get their dowry back through British courts, said: “Gone are the days when young women were very submissive and felt for the sake of the family honour they had to leave all their jewellery and clothing behind.”
Jacqui French, senior partner at the Nottingham-based law firm French and Co, which represented Miss Verma, said the company was dealing with several more Asian women in the same situation who were prepared to go through open court.  The dowry system has been illegal in India since 1961 and some would like a similar law introudce in Britain.  But traditionalists say the law should not be allowed to destroy an age old tradition Tripta Sareen, who attends a Hindu temple in Leicester, said: “These English judges do not understand our culture and even if they do try to give a judgment, their judgement will not be fair.”  Source:  BBC News (28.04.2000)