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Updated: Jul 15, 2022

The society is replete with cultural diffusions which give rise to changes in social and personal configuration. The world having morphed into a global village empowered by advanced technology, the prevalence of NRI marriages i.e. where spouse is a resident outside India has increased tremendously in India. Such marriages influenced with lucrative foreign world may breakdown as an outcome of fraudulent practices, bigamy, continuous demands for dowry, abandonment, lack of intention on either party to live together and ex- parte decree etc. In such a scenario, it is imperative that deserted victims of an unsuccessful NRI marriage possess the valour and pluck to heal their emotional and social inflictions and are aware of their rights and legal processes.

With the collaborative efforts of the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Women And Child Development, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law and Justice a path breaking bill titled, The Registration of Marriage of Non Resident Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in February, 2019. The introduction of the Bill was necessitated by the Ministry of External Affairs due to frequent complaints received from Indian nationals deserted or harassed by their Non-Resident Indian Spouses. It was further recommended to parliamentary standing committee to submit its report on the proposed bill.

Purpose and Objective of the Bill:

  1. To bring accountability and offer more protection against exploitation of Indian women by their NRI spouses.

  2. For better enforcement of the legal rights of the spouse who tied a knot with NRI.

  3. Since marriage is solemnised in India or outside India, in majority cases there are no records or legal documents for further procedures to be initiated against the offender.

Key provisions:

  1. Registration of NRI marriages within 30 days of marriages. No further extension period is proposed. This mandate would provide better enforcement of rights of the deserted spouse under various family laws.

  2. Amendment to passport act, 1967: It empowers the Passport Authority to impound or revoke the passport of NRI, if it is brought to its notice that the NRI has not registered his marriage within 30 days from the date of marriage.

  3. Amendment to Criminal Procedure Act, 1973: In cases of NRI marriages it is very difficult to track the spouse living abroad and it becomes strenuous job to ensure his appearance before the court. To tackle this situation, the process of serving summon and warrants of arrest online on the specifically designated website by the Ministry of External affairs has been proposed. The uploaded summon shall be conclusive evidence that the summon has been served on that person. 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 parliamentary standing committee has approved this bill with certain recommendations on 13 March 2020. The recommendations in brief are listed as follows:

  1. The bill serves a limited purpose and is not a comprehensive legislation. It only creates pressure on the accused NRI to appear before the court. The major challenges faced by the Indian spouse due to complex Indian legal system and foreign courts for divorce, maintenance, child custody are still not brought under the umbrella of the proposed bill.

  2. The concessions or visa extension issue need to be included in MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) / bilateral treaties with other countries.

  3. The bill does not provide for a clear and ambiguous definition of NRI. It should provide for such definition which will bring under its garb more accused persons to realize the legislative intent.

  4. The provision of show cause notice within stipulated time limit, exemplary fine, and issue of look out notice prior to the impounding of passport of accused NRI to be included in the bill in question.

  5. The attachment of property of proclaimed offender in NRI marriage to be left on the court to decide. The bill shall be restricted to summon and court orders. The punitive measures that may follow ought to be left to be decided by the concerned court varying from case to case.

  6. The parliamentary committee has also called for amending the proforma for registration of NRI marriage to make it exhaustive, incorporating all the details related to the passport, visa or permanent resident card and address in the foreign country with proof.

In nutshell, the proposed bill intends to offer greater protection to Indian men and 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 married to NRIs worldwide. Once the bill is enacted, it is in the interest of NRIs to register their marriage within 30 days of getting married, whether they do so in India or in a foreign country. Non-registration could result in impoundment of their passport which may have extremely severe consequences such as deportation.

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