NEW DELHI: To tighten the laws for those NRIs who abandon their wives in India, the Ministry of Law and Justice has proposed that summons to these men will now be served via the website of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and as soon as such summons are uploaded on the website, the same would be treated as served to the husband. At present, notices are issued in newspapers, after NRI husbands do not respond to summons issued, which probably nobody reads. Serving notices for beginning court proceedings is a key obstacle faced by the government due to the absence of correct overseas addresses of spouses.
The proposal will be discussed at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday in which officials from Union Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) and MEA will be there. In the draft report sent to the law ministry, the WCD ministry had also proposed measures such as impounding or cancellation of passport and attachment of their assets in India. It was also recommended that all NRI marriages be registered within a week after being solemnised. Currently, only a few states, including Punjab, which was the first to do so, compulsorily register NRI marriages.
Though there is no government data on the number of women deserted by grooms, papers published by some NGOs in recent times have estimated that there were about 25,000 women living in Punjab and Gujarat who were deserted shortly after their marriage. There are thousands of others in states like Delhi, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Although there is no consolidated data available with the government on the number of women who marry NRIs, the MEA in a written response in the Lok Sabha said that Indian missions abroad had received 3,328 complaints from Indian women about marital disputes since 2015. Of this, 3,268 were addressed by way of providing counselling to the women, and guidance and information about procedures, including on how to serve judicial summons to NRI husbands. Many husbands often use the lenient laws in foreign countries to obtain ex parte divorces from foreign courts.
This becomes a weapon in their hands to deny maintenance to women who are dumped in India. Since the NRIs rely on foreign court granted divorces, the women only come to know through foreign court notices about the divorce