A bill was introduced by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on February 11th 2019, Monday, at Rajya Sabha by the Minister of MEA, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, on Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident of India. This bill is an outcome of a joint initiative of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law and Justice. The most important objective of this bill is the imperative, impending need to create accountability and offer more protection against exploitation of Indian Women by NRI spouses and it envisages,

·         Registration of Marriages by Non-Resident Indians, proposes to provide for compulsory registration of marriage by a Non-resident Indian within a period of 30 days from the date of marriage.

·         Seeks Amendment of the Passports Act 1967, which will empower the passport authority to impound or cause to be impounded or revoke a passport or travel document of a NRI, if it is brought to its notice that, the NRI has not registered his marriage within a period of 30 days from the date of marriage.

·         Seeks Amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CrPC), which will empower the courts for the issuance of summons, warrants through the specifically designated website of MEA. In furtherance, it provides for attachment of properties, both moveable and immoveable, belonging to a proclaimed offender.

According to the provisions of the Bill, the compulsory registration of marriage within thirty days of marriage in INDIA or ABROAD, would provide better enforcement of rights of the deserted spouse under various family laws. Similarly, the amendment to the Passport Act would empower the Passport Authority to impound or revoke the passport of NRI, if it is brought to his/her notice that the NRI has not registered his marriage within 30 days from the date of marriage. The Amendments of CrPC, 1973, would empower the Courts for issuance of summons, warrants through the specially designated website of the Ministry of External Affairs. It also provides provisions for attachment of properties belonging to the NRI, if he does not appear before the Court and is declared as Proclaimed Offender by the Court.

The Introduction of the Bill was necessitated by the Ministry of External Affairs due to numerous complaints received from Indian Nationals mostly women deserted or harassed by their Non-Resident Indian Spouses. The Bill proposes to offer greater protection to Indian women married to NRIs’ and serve as a deterrent to NRIs’ against harassment of their spouses. This would provide much needed relief to all Indian Women married to NRIs’ worldwide.The proposed will be applicable to NRIs’ marrying Indian women within or even outside India.

NRI MARRIAGES, generally understood are between an Indian woman from India and an Indian man residing in another Country, thus NRI-Non Resident Indian, either as citizen, in which case he would be legally be an NRI or as citizen of that other Country or in case he would be legally be a PIO, Person of Indian Origin. The problem is especially related to Indian women who get trapped in deceptive matrimony with overseas Indians. The fact that is ignored, that in case of things going wrong in an NRI marriage, the woman’s recourse to justice is greatly constrained and complex. The aggravated risk in such marriage is the woman is being “isolated” far away from home in an alien land, facing language constraints, communication problems, lack of proper information about the local criminal justice, police and legal system.

The problem is manifold and it incorporates issues like dowry and various other types of harassment of married women in foreign countries, marriages of convenience, concealment of earlier existing marriage by the husband before marrying an Indian Woman, just to appease the family members. Another very important issue which needs attention is lack of social security faced by an Indian Woman in a foreign country when the marriage is not working. The situation is worsened by lack of support network of friends, family and monetary constraints which leaves the deserted wife completely helpless and stranded.

In the past, and now, most of the incidents reported were,

·         Woman married to an NRI, who is abandoned even before being taken by her husband to the foreign country of his residence.

·         Woman brutally battered, assaulted, abused both mentally and physically, malnourished, confined, ill-treated, forced to flee, forcibly sent back.

·         A quick engagement, followed by a massive wedding, a huge dowry and a honeymoon, after which the NRI husband flies out of India, while the wife waits for her visa.

·         The menace of “HONEYMOON BRIDES” is a big problem to deal with, as over 20,000 brides have not seen their husbands after their honeymoon.

·         Woman who reached the foreign country of her husband’s residence and waited at the International airport there, only to find that her husband would not turn up at all.

·         NRI husband was already married in the other country to another woman.

·         Husband had given false information on any or all of the following, his job, immigration status, earning, property, marital status, other material particulars, to con her into marriage.

·         Woman who approached the court, either in India or in the other country, for maintenance or divorce, repeatedly encountered technical legal obstacles related to jurisdiction of Courts, service of notices or orders, enforcement of orders, knowledge of the husband commencing simultaneous, retaliatory legal proceeding in the other country.

These problems have emphasized the requirement of provisions and steps, to protect these women against the backdrop of cases of Indian women being trapped in fraudulent marriages with NRIs’ and very importantly making them aware of their rights and social security means, that are available for them.

It is also notable that, since the Budget Session ends on Wednesday, today, and is the last session before Lok Sabha elections, the bill though introduced, is unlikely to be passed. Since it has been introduced in Rajya Sabha and is likely to remain pending there, it would not lapse on the dissolution of the present (16th) Lok Sabha on June 3rd, 2019, the sources confirmed.