It must serve as ready reference for foreign courts deciding on litigation

Strongly advocating separate legislation to address matrimonial discord, maintenance, settlement of property and custody of children, experts on Tuesday said the new law could serve as a comprehensive ready reference for foreign courts deciding on litigation between non-resident Indians and Indian citizens.

Highlighting the inadequacies of the existing legislation, the experts, speaking at a national seminar here on “Issues Relating to NRI Marriages,” said certain provisions were needed to address international protocol and jurisdiction issues.

They favoured mandatory registration of marriages, simplification of the procedure for quick issuance of visa by foreign missions in India to any deserted woman to enable her to contest the proceedings filed by her NRI/Person of Indian Origin (PIO) husband in a foreign land.

Introduction of a system of cross-checking or consent when an NRI/PIO wants to cancel sponsorship of his spouse's visa, barring ex parte divorce by foreign courts in the case of marriages solemnised in India as per Indian law, and not permitting deportation of the woman in order to let her contest the case were some of the other points of discussion, made at the seminar organised by the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

Advocate Ranjit Malhotra suggested that as part of consular protection obligations, foreign embassies, missions and consulates in India mandatorily furnish all relevant data of the erring NRI spouses, who are habitually resident and domiciled in foreign countries.

Some sort of practice directions or a protocol could well be framed by the Ministry of External Affairs, in conjunction with the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the Ministry of Women and Child Development, to direct embassies and foreign missions to provide meaningful consular assistance to abandoned NRI brides.

Basant K. Gupta, Additional Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, drew attention to the sensitivity of the issue, and suggested bringing about a common ground between the two parties and signing of a pre-nuptial affidavit that marriages performed in India would come under the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

D.K. Sikri, Union Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, said the issue of NRI marriages could be included in the 12th Five-Year Plan.

The NCW demanded that it be recognised as an authorised body to directly file applications before foreign courts and foreign missions on behalf of aggrieved women.

Minister for Women and Child Health Krishna Tirath said the government was doing all it could to address issues of NRI marriages.

Girija Vyas, NCW Chairperson, said the NRI Cell, started in the Commission in 2009, had received 515 complaints of desertion. Of the 415 women from India, 68 were from Delhi, 42 from Uttar Pradesh, 36 from Haryana, 27 each from Punjab and Maharashtra, 25 from Gujarat, 24 from Andhra Pradesh, and 13 each from West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The remaining were from other countries.

Keywords: NRI marriage

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