Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Tuesday, 3 June 2008 18:46 UK

Couple's surprise over 'divorce'

Meena (left) and Virendar
The couple say their marriage is a question of honour (Photos: Devendra Uppal)

An Indian couple who married 25 years ago have discovered they were divorced without their consent in 1998.

Meena and Virender Verma, who are in their 40s with two teenaged children, say they are shocked by the news.

Meena found out about the divorce when she went to the authorities to complain that her brother-in-law was violent.

She and her husband hope the courts will "restore their honour". The brother-in-law is reported denying having anything to do with the divorce.

'Shock of my life'

The couple, from the town of Hisar in the state of Haryana, told the BBC that they never sought the divorce which was granted by a local court.

They insist that their neighbours and relatives are prepared to vouch for their story.

Meena Verma said that she received the "shock of her life" when she filed a case of violence against her brother-in-law only to be told that she had in fact also been divorced from her husband nearly a decade ago.

Virendar and his teenaged children
The family have lived happily together for decades

"I don't know why this has been done to me. We never filed for divorce anywhere.

"My husband has always been with me. I had kept quiet about my family matters and the violence for the sake of my family's reputation," she said.

"But I don't know how it is that we stand divorced now."

'Hope for justice'

A local district officer in the government-run women's welfare department who investigated Meena's case told the BBC they had not found any evidence that the couple had divorced.

"We asked people in the neighbourhood and some family and relatives of the couple and they all denied any knowledge about the couple's separation," Dr Poonam Raman, district protection officer, told the BBC.

Meena Verma's husband, Virender, said that he was solidly behind his wife and hoped for justice in court.

Virender alleged that his elder brother - a lawyer - cooked up the divorce theory around about the first time the couple sought to complain against his violent behaviour 10 years ago.

But The Times of India newspaper quoted the brother, Surinder Singh, denying the allegation.

Surinder and a number of other lawyers now face charges of misleading the court on the issue of divorce.

"Sheer injustice has been done to us and our reputation. We are hoping the court will help us restore our honour," Meena Verma said.

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