Picture Courtesy: https://theprint.in/opinion/wanted-nri-husband-isnt-getting-married-to-please-parents/34375/
This article was written by Navnoor Kaur, a student of Institute of Law, Kurukshetra University.
“Being abandoned or given up is the most devastating emotion we can cause in another human being.”- Gary David Currie
In a small village of Punjab, there lived a young girl. She was stunning, innocent, talented and educated. As soon as she completed her graduation, some people approached her parents for her marriage with their so-called well-to-do NRI son. She was chosen for the marriage not because of her talent and education, but just because of the fact of her being a beautiful, innocent daughter of a rich but simple father who could flood her in-laws with money and gifts. The girl’s untaught and ignorant parents were fascinated by the marriage proposal from an educated and well heeled boy living in El Dorado. The marriage was arranged. All was well but only till the date he went back to his country. One day passed, one month passed, one year passed, one decade passed but he never came back; nor came any letter, call or message. Same is the story of millions of Indian girls who were married to the runaway NRIs. These NRIs come to India, marry a girl and leave, just like a holiday. They need the wives just for the holiday fun and money and not for a stern matrimonial relationship.
Marriage once used to be a sacrosanct institution but today it has become a tool in the hands of nefarious people who use it to shape their evil designs. For some, marriage is a no-cost ATM and for others it is a freehand license to gratify sexual impulses. Abandonment of wives by NRI husbands is comparatively a new addition to the list of offences taking place within the garland of marriage.
WHO IS AN NRI AND WHAT IS NRI MARRIAGE?
An Indian citizen residing in another country is legally called an ‘NRI’ (Non- Resident Indians). If he is citizen of a foreign country but has Indian roots, then he would legally be called a PIO (Person of Indian origin). NRI marriages are the weddings solemnized between an Indian woman living in India and an NRI or PIO.
MEANING OF DESERTION:
“Desertion” under a scheme of Ministry of External Affairs means the voluntary abandonment of the wife by her husband. Moreover, if the husband, by his words compels the wife to leave the matrimonial home or stay away without reasonable cause, he will be guilty of desertion, though the wife has ostensibly separated from him. Desertion is frequently coupled with non-support i.e. a failure to provide monetary resources for those to whom such an obligation is due.
THE PLIGHT OF DESERTED WIVES:
‘All that glitters is not gold.’ Marrying an NRI may seem to be a jackpot prima facie, but it is actually a fund fraud in most cases. People get tempted by the fancy and lavish lifestyle of the foreign countries and are trapped into a never-ending circle of agony. Some people also feel proud to hook their daughters with an over-rated NRI. Since it is extremely difficult to do a background check of a person living overseas, parents rely on the lavish attires and superficial local reputation of these NRIs. They also pay a colossal amount of money as dowry, dreaming to provide a secured future to their daughters. Soon this reverie turns into a nightmare.
Let’s comprehend the predicament of the abandoned wives through some examples:
The main grumble of NRI wives is that a man comes across seven seas, has a lavish wedding and a fancy honeymoon and never shows his face again. According to NGOs working in the Doaba region of Punjab, over 20,000 girls have not seen their husbands after their honeymoon.
Ravinder Kaur got married to an NRI in 1995. He stayed for a honeymoon period of four months in India and then left promising her that he would send for her. She tried to correspond with him but all the addresses were wrong, the relatives were liars and today she is a helpless burden on her family. She has a ten year old son who has never seen his father. Both the mother and son depend upon Ravinder’s parents. She affirmed, ‘There is no law to help me or ensure that more women don’t get trapped.”
Some NRI brides feel blessed when their husbands place visa and boarding passes into their hands. But soon this ostensible blessing becomes malison. The wife soon learns that her husband is not a business tycoon but just a drudge. The husband may have provided false information on many crucial matters such as his financial and marital status etc. Moreover, sometimes the man is already married and the second wife is just taken as a cost-free maid to serve him and his other wife. The differences in the marriage commence with such revelations, followed by physical and sexual abuse. Ultimately, the wife is thrown out of the house in an outlandish country. Let’s go through Rachna’s story to have a handle on this sort of grievance.
Mrs. Rachna Shah was married to an NRI residing in Singapore. After reaching Singapore, she found that her husband was not an engineer, which he claimed earlier, but was employed in an insignificant temporary job. After a few months of their marriage, he got into the habit of beating and ill-treating her after getting drunk. After suffering a great deal at his hands, she was finally saved by the local police, taken to the Indian embassy and sent back to India. She filed for divorce and got married once again.
In some desertion cases, the wife after a protracted wait decides to go to her husband’s home and finds her husband already married or engaged in some illicit relationship. Woman is even sometimes brutally battered, assaulted, abused both mentally and physically, malnourished, confined and ill treated and forced to flee or is forcibly sent back. For example,
A 29-year-old engineer, working in Amritsar waited for her husband for over a year and then decided to claim the life she was promised, so she went to his house in Toronto and was devastated to find that he had two children. Despite the social stigma, she returned home, filed for divorce and started her life afresh.
- The abandoned wife can seek the assistance and guidance from the nearest Indian Embassy or High Commission. The Embassy will assist the complainant to file a complaint with the police of that particular country. It will avail the preliminary legal and financial assistance to the complainant. Further, it can be contacted for dropping a line to the complainant’s family or acquaintances in India.
- If the NRI is an Indian citizen, the wife can file a complaint under Section 498A or under any other relevant section of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 3 and 4 of IPC make such illegal acts of NRIs punishable under IPC.
- Various Indian state governments and organizations have started online portals to redress the grievances of NRI wives. For instance, NRI Cell National Commission for Woman, NRI Cell Haryana Police, NRI CellPunjab Police, NRI Cell Chandigarh Police
- The wife can also put to use SPA (Special Power of Attorney) and file a divorce case in India from abroad. However, this power is confined only to file the case. Both the parties must be present in the court during hearing. In case of non-compliance with summons, the court can order confiscation of passport.( Rajiv Dayal v. Union of India)
- Always register your marriage with a Registrar of the Indian Court either under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Special Marriage Act, 1954, The Foreign Marriage Act 1969 or under any other personal law by which both the spouses are governed.
Ministry of External Affairs’ Scheme for providing legal / financial assistance to Indian women deserted by their overseas Indian / foreigner husbands:
The objective of the scheme is to provide some financial assistance to needy Indian women in distress who have been deserted by their overseas Indian or foreigner husbands for obtaining counselling and legal services. The counselling and legal services would be provided through credible Indian Women’s Organizations, Indian Community Associations or NGOs identified for providing such services and empanelled with the Indian Missions in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the Gulf countries. The Scheme is a welfare measure to support Indian women in distress through the mobilization of the local Indian community in the endeavor and with some financial assistance from the Government.
- The Ministry of Law and Justice has put forward a plan to serve the summons to the accused NRI husbands via the website of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and as soon as such summons are uploaded on the website, the same would be presumed as served to the husband. At present, notices are issued in newspapers. Serving notices for beginning court proceedings is a key obstacle faced by the government due to the absence of correct overseas addresses of spouses.
- Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs has formed a committee to investigate the cases of desertion. As per a senior official of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the committee has received 70 complaints in the last two months. Acting on the complaints, passports of eight NRI husbands have been cancelled and lookout notices issued against them.
- The Marriage Act is proposed to be amended to make registration of NRI marriages mandatory within seven days, failing which the passports and visas of the NRIs would be liable to be denied or revoked.
- An amendment to the Passport Act is also proposed. It will allow the government to seize the passport of an NRI husband if he fails to appear in a court to answer charges of abandoning his wife.
- A proposed amendment to the CrPC would allow the government to upload and display the summons against the spouse who has abandoned his wife, on the website of Ministry of External Affairs.
Today, the world has become a global village. In this modern era, migration of people in quest of better life, from one place to another is very common. Thus, it is extremely important that a comprehensive legislation is enacted to keep pace with the contemporary NRI issues, especially the issue of desertion. The government should spread the awareness about the issue as it has done for the Swacha Bharat Abhiyan. Stringent penal rules should be formulated for the runway husbands. But the government alone cannot exterminate this evil. Parents must do the background check of the boy before marriage with the help of their NRI acquaintances. The land and other financial assets of boy in India must be cross-verified. The financial and social status of boy’s family must be confirmed. The marital status of the boy must be checked. Marriage must be compulsorily registered. Marriage should be done only after the girl gets visa. If dowry is demanded, parents should report it and keep a distance from such an alliance as prevention is always better than cure. Girls must be properly educated so that they do not need some NRI to secure her and her parent’s future. The woman should be equipped with knowledge of the laws of the foreign country where the groom resides and the rights she enjoys there. It is a long row to hoe but Rome was also not built in a day.