Issue of Fraudulent marriages with NRIs

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National Commission for Women (NCW) held consultations on the “Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)” to be adopted while dealing with cases related to NRI Matrimonial Disputes.

Meaning of NRI marriages:

NRI marriages as generally understood, are between an Indian woman from India and an Indian man residing in another country (thus NRI – non-resident Indian), either as Indian citizen (when he would legally be an “NRI”) or as citizen of that other country (when he would legally be a PIO – person of Indian origin).

What are the reasons for rise in NRI marriages?

a)Globalization: In light of this rapidly accelerating globalization and expansion of Indian communities abroad, NRI marriages are on rise.
b)Greed: Also many Indian families prefer NRI grooms assuming that it will not only enable their daughters to lead a life full of comforts but will also provide financial support to their families and new avenues for their siblings in foreign countries. Due to this few families run due diligence checks on the background of the grooms.

Problems in NRI marriages:

a)From last several years a new problem has come on the surface that is about Indian women being trapped in fraudulent marriages with overseas Indians. This has led to origin of terms like ‘Honeymoon brides’ or ‘No-where brides’.
b)Regions where the frauds are common: Instances of fraudulent marriages have been reported mostly from Punjab and Haryana. Many families from Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, too, have been victims. The NCW report shows that till January 31, 2011, 540 complaints related to Indian women deserted by their overseas husbands were reported and the complaints increased to 843 by February 5, 2012.
List of issues in NRI marriages: The common issues/problems relating to Overseas Indian/NRI marriages being faced by Indian Women include:
a)Abandonment of the wife for various reasons, even before being taken to the foreign land where her husband resided.
b)Domestic Violence with she being brutally battered, assaulted, abused both physically and mentally, malnourished, confined and ill-treated.
c)NRI husband already married thereby her becoming a victim of bigamy.
d)Continued demands for dowry, pre and post marriage from her in-laws. For example, Neerja Bhanot had an arranged marriage in March 1985 and joined her husband in Doha, Qatar. However, the marriage soon deteriorated following alleged dowry pressure and she returned to her parents’ home in Mumbai within two months.
e)Lenient legal system abroad in respect of grounds for divorce etc. which is misused by her husband.

Why is it difficult to deal with the problem?

c)NRI marriages are not only governed by Indian Laws but laws of the other country also. Hence, the conviction rate is abysmally low due to the complexity that arises out of the jurisdiction involved in such cases.
d)Women in these cases lack knowledge regarding the various avenues of relief available to them.
e)There is also lack of a legislative framework in India to address the issue.

Way ahead?

a)Generate Awareness: Generate awareness about
i.Precautions to be taken before entering into marriage alliance.
ii.The Safeguards available to women deserted by their NRI spouses, legal remedies available, authorities that can be approached for redressal of grievances.
b)Do background check: Families find it difficult to ascertain the information provided by the groom. The Indian government can step in and provide a tool to check the credentials of the groom-to-be.
c)Registration of marriages: Registration of NRI marriages should be made mandatory.
d)Get their social security number: Certificates for such marriages should include the social security number of the NRI spouse
e)Special cell in Indian embassy: A special cell should be setup with the Indian Embassy in different countries to provide assistances during the emergencies.
f)Special cell in external affairs ministry: Constitute a special cell in the external affairs ministry to look into complaints
g)Bring back the groom: Use international treaties to bring NRI spouses back to India so that they can be tried under Indian laws. For this enter into bilateral treaties with other countries.
h)Assistance: Government should increase the expense account for legal help abroad.
i)Enact a NRI matrimonial law: We should enact a NRI matrimonial law to categorically cover aspects such as abandonment, divorce and maintenance and child custody. It can incorporate various provisions such as:
i.No marriage between a NRI and an Indian woman which has taken place in India may be annulled by a foreign court.
ii.Provision may be made for adequate alimony to the wife in the property of the husband both in India and abroad.

What steps have been taken by the government of India in this direction?

a)A scheme was launched in 2007 to provide legal /financial assistance to the deserted or divorced overseas Indian women through the Indian Missions/Posts.
b)NCW has also been nominated by Ministry of External Affairs as the Coordinating agency at the National level for dealing with issues pertaining NRI marriages. The NRI Cell of the Commission has been raising awareness on the issue.
c)Information Pamphlets: The Ministry has brought out Information Pamphlets in English, Hindi, Punjabi, Malayalam and Telugu to make Indian women aware of their rights and responsibilities and the precautions that could be exercised before entering into marital alliance with overseas Indians. These pamphlets have been sent to the State Governments for distribution through Village Panchayats, Anganwadis, Railway Stations, Airports, Hospitals /Dispensaries, NGOs/Self Help Groups etc.