Even as marriages to NRIs are being touted as a status symbol, the increasing number of these marriages falling apart or brides being trapped in deceptive matrimony has prompted the government to come out with The Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019 to protect the interest of a woman. The rise of such incidences in Goa over the years needs to be taken cognizance of, particularly by parents, who push their girls to marry NRIs
Although parents and society at large are trying to turn a blind eye to the increasing number of brides being cheated or harassed by their NRI spouses, the fact remains that these cases are just escalating, with the hapless bride at the receiving end.
In April 2019, Niz Goenkar reported one such incident in Swindon, UK. Valentino Fernandes has been torturing his wife and publicly abusing her even offering her as a prostitute. Although they are parents to three children, Fernandes continues to torture his wife. Pleading not guilty to a charge of controlling or coercive behaviour, he has been let off the hook by Swindon Crown Court.
An NRI marriage as generally understood is 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 a citizen of that other country (when he would legally be a PIO – person of Indian origin).
According to a report in Vakilno1.com, the problem arises not just due to opportunistic NRIs, but parents who trust someone they barely know, ignoring even common cautions observed in traditional matchmaking. Many Indian women, even those from the educated sector are trapped in deceptive matrimony with these NRIs.
Being far away from home, language constraints and communication problems, insufficient knowledge of the legal system in the foreign country are some of the hindrances to the newly married bride. This is further compounded by issues like dowry, other types of harassment, battery and assault, marriages of convenience, concealment of earlier marriage by the NRI spouse, being abandoned in their own country immediately after marriage, or on arrival at the airport in a foreign country and more often than not the NRI spouse conceals important information about age, qualifications, job, residence etc.
As these incidents escalate in the country, with the bride and her family at loose ends, the government has stepped with certain measures, making it mandatory that all such marriages to NRIs are registered within 30 days.
According to this source, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has also proposed that women marrying NRIs should be issued a second passport which should be retained by the parents, so that they can help her to return in case the abusive NRI spouse snatches the same. “A copy of this second passport — which will be a “combined” document containing details of both the woman and her NRI husband, and will also serve as “proof” of their marriage — will be deposited with the Indian mission in the country where the woman goes to live,” said a WCD Minister, while also pointing out that Indian missions and embassies abroad are also there to help them. It may be recalled that as early as January 2007 the Ministry of External Affairs had released a guidance booklet ‘Marriage to Overseas Indians’, which serves as a guide to avoid unfortunate circumstances and precautions that can be taken and Indian laws pertaining to the registration of such marriages.
According to a report in RSTV (Rajya Sabha), taking cognizance of the number of brides being trapped in fraudulent NRI marriages, the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj introduced ‘The Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019’ in February this year. The bill states that resident Indian who marries an Indian citizen or fellow NRI have to compulsorily register their marriages within 30 days or have their passports impounded or revoked (The Passport Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure).
This bill also empowers courts to attach movable and immovable assets of NRIs who are declared ‘proclaimed offenders’ for failing to appear before the courts. The bill (draft law) also allows courts to send summons and warrants to the accused through a specially designed website of the Ministry of External Affairs. According to an MEA report, the Ministry receives hundreds of complaints about brides abandoned in foreign lands and being subjected to mental and physical abuse and the period 2016-2018 indicates that 4,307 complaints alone of Indian women being deserted by their NRI husbands were received and addressed.
According to this source, this will be applicable to NRIs marrying women in India or outside India. Accordingly, if the NRI marries an Indian citizen here, then marriage has to be registered as per local laws and if married abroad, it has to be registered with designated officers to be appointed in foreign countries. It is only hoped that this Bill is passed at the earliest.
In Goa, the problem is exacerbated by the Goa Law on polygamy which recognizes the second marriage of a ‘Gentile Hindu’ Goan man if the previous wife does not have children before 25 years of age or no male issue before 30 years.
Will the new government stand up for the rights of their female citizens and accord them protection by passing ‘The Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019’, which so far is the only measure put forth to help these hapless brides of NRIs?