Familiar story but in a different setting.
This time it is not a village of Punjab, it’s Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Instead of a Khap Panchayat or village councils dotted across India that often dish out their own extrajudicial brand of social justice, it is the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The suffering began when Rajinder Gupta husband allegedly forced his wife to have painful sex twice on their wedding night and escalated to numerous incidents of rape, violence, threats and verbal abuse inside his family’s tension-filled home.
Rajinder Gupta, a Toronto man and his parents are on trial this week in a downtown courthouse after pleading not guilty to multiple charges related to the son’s arranged marriage that ended after three months.
Gupta has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault, three counts of assault and one count of uttering threats. His mother, Sheela Gupta, twice said “this is lie,” when entering her not guilty plea Monday to uttering threats and assault. His father, Vinod Gupta, also pleaded not guilty to uttering threats.
The complainant, a soft-spoken woman who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, was on the stand for a second day Tuesday, testifying how her short-lived marriage in 2015 spiralled from bad to worse.
She told Superior Court Justice James Diamond that she and Gupta met after they both posted profiles on Shaadi.com, an India-based online matchmaking service that purports to have “pioneered online matrimonials” and redefined “the way Indian brides and grooms meet for marriage.”
She was living in a different province at the time with her parents, while he was living with his parents in a west-end Toronto townhouse. Vinod Gupta contacted her father and invited them to Toronto.
The couple’s meeting lasted between 10 and 15 minutes, she testified.
She shared, “He said ‘I like you, I want to marry you,’ and he inquired, ‘Would you like to marry me?”
She agreed — after they exchanged stories about previous marriages — and swapped gifts: she accepted a gold chain; she gave him a gold ring to put on his finger.
The woman testified, “It meant both of us were engaged to each other.”
Sometime later , she wasn’t clear on the timing — she returned with her family to Toronto where the couple wed in April 2015 in front of a small gathering.
After the ceremony they returned to his parents’ townhouse, where they planned to live. They retired to his bedroom where he told her he wanted to have sex and pushed her to the bed and removed her clothes.
“At that time I was saying, ‘I don’t want to do that,’” she said, adding she was scared. He held her arms, and proceeded to have intercourse with her anyway, she said. The encounter was painful and she sat through dinner with his parents “not able to walk or sit properly,” she testified.
Crown attorney Kelly Simpson asked why. “Because he did it forcefully,” she replied. He forced her to have sex again later that night, ignoring her requests to stop because of her discomfort, she said.
Gupta, sitting next to his parents in court, has remained expressionless throughout her testimony.
The woman became emotional describing numerous instances of Gupta forcing her to have sex and of the rising tensions in the townhouse, where she said she was told what to eat and when and ordered not to dress like a “call girl.”
The witness said her in-laws always sided with their son, who was frustrated and angry whenever she rebuffed his sexual advances. She recalled instances of him pulling her hair, slapping her and, one time, biting her all over her body.
On one occasion, Sheela Gupta slapped her daughter-in-law across her cheek, after upbraiding her for not “obeying” her son’s wishes, the witness said.
She said Vinod Gupta was equally unhappy with the woman he had picked out as marriage material for his son.
“‘She has made everything filthy,’” the witness testified she overheard her father-in-law say. She recalled him pounding on the dining room table and threatening to “hang” members of her family upside down.
By July 2015, the new bride had given a statement to Toronto police.
The judge-alone trial continues Wednesday.