There have been numerous instances of men settled abroad and coming back to India for marriage and then abandoning their wives after taking their money and valuables. A large number of victims are from Punjab, Gujarat and Kerala. In Punjab, large numbers of cases are found in the Doaba Region which is a NRI hub in Punjab. Many people from this region had migrated in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to various foreign countries.
Such women dumped by NRI husbands are known as “holiday brides.” Marrying off the daughters to families settled aboard is one of the main reasons behind this phenomenon. There are a lot of cases where girl got married to NRI and later it comes into light that the boy is already married and has no intention of taking his Indian bride to the country he lives in.
What are the issues related to NRI marriages?
The problems with NRI marriages are complex in nature as these often falls within the sphere of Private International law and law of foreign land. The common problems related to NRI marriages faced by Indian women include:-
- Abandonment of the wife for various reasons.
- Domestic violence.
- NRI husband already married.
- Demand of dowry.
- Lenient legal system in relation to divorce in foreign countries.
How many cases are there?
According to a report, Ministry of External affairs received 5298 complaints between 1st January, 2016 to 31st October, 2019. These complaints mainly related to the issues like abandonment, harassment, cheating, and domestic violence by the husbands residing abroad. Majority of these NRIs are in the Unites States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. According to one other report in 2018, there are 12,000 complaints registered in Regional Passport Office (RPO) Chandigarh which covers 24 districts of Punjab and Haryana. In 2011, around 15,000 complaints got registered in RPO Jalandhar from Doaba Region from last few years.
In May, 2019 the RPO Chandigarh had suspended 370 passports of NRIs accused. RPO Chandigarh also writes to the Embassies and even informed the employers of such NRIs about suspension of their passports in order to make sure the return of NRIs accused to India for facing criminal cases.
In 2018, as per the report of Punjab State Commission for Women around 30,000 cases related to NRIs in the state abandoning their wives are pending.
What wife can do if she is dumped by her NRI husband?
If any wife dumped by her NRI husband in India, then she can immediately file a complaint/FIR U/s 498 A of IPC on grounds of cruelty in the local police station. Persons related to wife by blood, marriage or adoption also can file a complaint under this Section. According to Section 188 of Cr.P.C. offences committed by Indian Citizen outside India would be deemed to have been committed within the territory of India. Therefore a compliant can be lodged in India.
If any women abandoned in the foreign country then she can approach the local police station or may contact the Indian Embassy in such foreign country, employer of her husband and local Indian associations working for such abandoned women.
What is Section 498-A of IPC?
Section 498-A deals with the cruelty to a woman by her husband and relative of husband. Such cruelty may be mental or physical. Desertion comes under the definition of cruelty. Maximum punishment under this offence is 3 years and fine can also be imposed on the accused person.
What to do if police refuses to register a FIR?
In that case aggrieved wife can move a written representation to the Station House Officer (SHO) U/s 154(3) Cr.P.C. If he refuses to register a complaint, then she can forward the same to the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the concerned district. If he satisfied that the information discloses the commission of cognizable offence, then he shall investigate the matter himself or direct any subordinate police officer to investigate the matter.
What to do if Superintendent of Police also refuses to take action?
An aggrieved wife can file a criminal complaint before the Magistrate U/s 156 (3) of Cr.P.C. Any magistrate can order investigation U/s 190 of Cr.P.C. on the basis criminal complaint filed by the aggrieved women.
What to do if you are not satisfied with the police investigation?
Police presents the final report U/s 173 of the Cr.P.C. after completion of investigation. If aggrieved wife is not satisfied with the investigation, then she can move a protest petition before the Magistrate against the negative police report. That petition is treated as compliant U/s 190 of the Cr.P.C. before the court. On satisfaction, Magistrate can inquire the matter himself or can order an investigation by an officer-in-charge.
What to do if NRI husband doesn’t respond to the summons?
The Central authority on receiving summons from proper judicial authority shall forward the summons outside India. If NRI husband doesn’t respond to the summons of the Indian Court, then aggrieved has a remedy U/s 10 of the Passport Act to cancel the passport. She can move an application under this Section for impounding of his passport at concerned RPO office. It is a simple request, no prescribed performa is required. The following documents are required to make complaint in RPO officer for suspension of passport:-
- Marriage certificate.
- Copy of FIR.
- Documents detailing husband’s name, Date of birth and address.
According to officer of Passport Authority they send a show cause notice to the husband on receipt of compliant. On failure to give any response to the show cause notice, the passport got suspended. If the husband managed to flee from India, then information has been sent to the Indian Embassy in the foreign country where he resides. In that case accused husband left with 2 choices, either to come back India or to stay illegally in foreign country.
What is the procedure if accused NRI husband escape arrest?
Where the NRI husband deliberately evade the arrest or not appear in the trial court despite of Non-Bailable Warrant in penal offences and there is a chance that he will leave India to evade the arrest or trial, then police can issue Look-out –Circular (LOC). The investigation officer shall make a written request to the concerned officer for LOC.
Can accused husband be deported or extradited to face trial in India?
Deportation of the accused husband depends upon the criminality of the offence in the country where he resides and India has extradition treaty with that country. A person can be deported or extradited if he is required under any criminal case. The Ministry of External Affairs on receiving of formal request of extradition from the concerned investigating agency or state police authorities will take appropriate steps.
Matrimonial, private family disputes are not in conformity with the law of extradition. These offences lack dual criminality criteria which is mandatory for seeking extradition. For e.g. dowry cases are offence in India but in a country like Australia dowry is not an offence, in that case it become difficult to deport accused person from that country. Usually foreign countries denied the request for extradition in matrimonial disputes.
Indian Govt. initiative on safeguards of dumped brides:
The proposed Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019 has been designed to safeguard the Indian brides who are dumped by their NRI husbands. In absence of an appropriate law in India to deals with such kind of cases, legal action taken against the NRI husbands depend upon the wishes of countries of their residence.
In most of the cases, request for deportation of husband have been rejected by the foreign countries, where they were booked U/s 498-A of IPC and Dowry Act. The National Commission for Women and State Commissions for Women have very limited powers to take any strict police actions against such NRI husbands. The proposed Bill has the following features:-
- Compulsory registration of marriage by an NRI within 30 days from the date of marriage.
- It seeks to amend the Passport Act, 1967 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- It empowers the Passport Authority to impound or revoke the passport or travel document of an NRI, if it is brought in the notice that NRI has not registered his/her marriage within 30 days from the date of marriage.
- The bill empowers the courts to issue summons or warrants through the specifically designed website of Ministry of External Affairs.
- In case of proclaimed offender, empowers to attach both immovable and movable property belongs to such proclaimed offender.
The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha on 11th Feb, 2019, and was referred to the Standing Committee on External Affairs. The Standing Committee has approved the bill and submits its report on 13th of March, 2020. This initiative being the need of hour will change the present scenario of hardships faced by thousands of women. Many NRIs will not dare to commit such crimes due to the fear of suspension of passport and property attachment.
Do get your marriage registered in India:
It is advisable to get your marriage registered with office of Registrar in India before your husband leaves the country. Marriage certificate helps to settle out disputes in various ways. It is also preferable to keep the adequate proof like marriage photographs, wedding invitation, copy of husband’s passport, driving licence and any other ID proof issued by the foreign country.
In absence of any strong law, it is highly recommended for the deserted women to make application for cancellation of passport of offending NRI husband. Once the passport got cancelled, he can’t leave the country if present in India. If he managed to escape then he will have to be deported to India. At present, it is not easy to get the man back to India for facing legal proceedings in cases of desertion, domestic violence or dowry harassment. These offences are required to be included in the scope of extradition treaties that India links with other countries.
Associate at Aggarwals and Associates, S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali