Harassment of wives: Government-panel proposes strict rules for NRI husbands
An inter-department panel has proposed strict measures to check abandonment of Indian wives by NRIs. It has been decided that NRI men who marry in the country will mandatorily have to register their marriages within a week. Their marital status will also have to be updated on their passport. During January'15-November'17, the MEA received three calls everyday by distressed NRI wives wanting to return.
Common complaints of Indian women marrying NRI men
The most common complaints against NRI husbands by Indian women pertain to them disappearing after marriage, preventing the wife from coming back to India, abandoning her in a foreign country, or forcefully sending her back and keeping the children there. In recent years, such cases have increased: there were 3,328 complaints in the three years between January'15 and November'17.
Some of the panel's recommendations already implemented
To address the issue, the Foreign Ministry set up a panel headed by retired judge Arvind Kumar Goel in May'17. On its recommendation, the government is setting up a website to track NRI marriages. The panel also suggested confiscating/cancelling passports of abusive NRI husbands. To ensure Indian laws are applied in other countries, it proposed including domestic violence in the scope of India's extradition-treaties.
The latest changes in laws
Currently, summons are issued after a woman lodges a complaint, but the process often fails as the man moves to a new location, or provides wrong address. Yesterday, the inter-ministerial panel proposed revocation of passport upon failing to update marital status. The foreign ministry can now also upload summons issued to NRI men on their website, which will be "deemed to have been served."
Implementation of these proposals will need several amendments
Implementing these measures will need amendments by the law ministry (Registration of Births and Deaths Act), foreign ministry (Passport Act) and home ministry (Code of Criminal Procedure). "The amendments will then go to the cabinet for approval," an official said. The panel consisted Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.
NRI wives: Here's what you can do for help
In February 2015, the MEA launched a grievance redressal portal called MADAD to handle cases like these. You can visit any Indian Mission and Post abroad or the MEA's Branch Secretariats in Chennai, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Kolkata to lodge a complaint. You can also do it online by visiting www.madad.gov.in. You will have to register yourself before filing a grievance.
Proposal on confiscation of husband's property still under discussion
However, the panel couldn't decide on the recommendation to attach NRI husbands' property in such cases. Swaraj and Gandhi had suggested that if the man in question doesn't own property, his share of parental property be seized instead. "Law ministry officials said this proposal isn't legally tenable. The panel has directed them to revisit the proposal and suggest what could be done," said another official.