Plights of the abandoned wives of NRI’s needs attention.
Plights of abandoned wives of NRI’s was in news again as the Supreme Court of India was considering few Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the issue recently. Earlier, Supreme Court had issued notice to the Central Government and National Commission for Women seeking their response and now the matter is listed for final hearing.
What are the problems faced by abandoned wives of NRI’s
- Woman married to an NRI husband, abandoned even before being taken to the foreign country of his residence.
- This is one of the typical instances where after a quick engagement, followed by a massive wedding and a huge dowry, the NRI husband flies out of India while the wife waits for her visa. In such cases, the husband abandons his legally wedded wife, promising to soon send her ticket that never came. In many instances, the woman would already have been pregnant when he left and so both she and the child (who was born later) were abandoned. The husband never called or wrote and never came back again. The in-laws who could still be in India, would either plead helplessness or flatly refuse to help.
- Woman after marriage is taken to the foreign country being abandoned in the alien land.
- In such cases a Woman who went to her husband’s home in a foreign country only to be brutally battered, assaulted, abused both mentally and physically, ill fed, and ill-treated by him in several other ways. She was therefore either forced to flee or was forcibly sent back. In some cases, the woman was also not allowed to bring back her children along. In many cases, the children were abducted or forcibly taken away from the woman. There are even circumstances were the woman who reached the foreign country of her husband’s residence and waited at the international airport there, only to find that her husband would not turn up at all. In such cases, Woman is abandoned in the foreign country with absolutely no support or means of sustenance or escape and without even the legal permission to stay on in that country.
- In certain cases, the woman learnt on reaching the country of her NRI husband’s residence that he was already married in the other country to another woman, whom he continued to live with. He may have married his new wife due to pressure from his parents and to please hem or sometimes even to use her like a domestic help. There are also cases where a woman later learnt that her NRI husband had given false information on any or all the following: his job, immigration status, earning, property, marital status and other material particulars, to convince her into the marriage.
- Ex-parte divorce decrees have been passed by the foreign courts.
- 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.
- Menace of “Arabi Kalyanam” (Arab wedding)
- These Petitions bring to the notice of this Hon’ble Court the plight minor Muslims girls of Poverty-stricken parents, who could not meet the hefty dowry demanded by local youths, were often used to be trapped by “visiting grooms” with the support of local marriage brokers and, in many cases, community elders. Initially, the brides are heaped with costly gifts like gorgeous apparels and gold ornaments and cash to lure their parents to force their daughters into marriage. After the wedding ceremony, they are taken to honeymoon trips for a few days and even for weeks, after which the groom would leave for their home abandoning the teenage brides to life-long misery and tears.
Legal issues involved
Abandoned NRI wives who approached the court, either in India or in the other country, for maintenance or divorce but has repeatedly encountered technical legal obstacles related to jurisdiction of courts, service of notices or orders, or enforcement of orders or learnt of the husband commencing simultaneous retaliatory legal proceeding in the other country.
A women abandoned or dubbed by her NRI husband in India has to face obstacles at every point starting from lodging an FIR against the husband as the police is reluctant take the crime seriously to service of Court notices or non-bailable warrant due to absence of correct overseas addresses of spouses due to which notice does not get served, without which the court cannot proceed. When it comes to look out circulars, as the approach towards NRI abandoned brides becomes more difficult as it takes almost 4 months for issuing such notice as when the Investigating officer initiates paper work, this is signed by a senior officer which is sent to the Bureau of Immigration which in turn is sent to the Foreign Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) and to all immigration check point in India.
In some cases, when the NRI husband abandons his wife and leaves the country, ascertaining the country to which he has left and the address of communication in that country itself becomes difficult or not even known.
India has the world’s largest diaspora, according to figures from the United Nations. It also shows that over two million Indians have moved overseas in the past five years. Approximately, 18 million people who were born in India now live elsewhere. Looking at the figures above it becomes imperative on part of the Government immediately to frame necessary guideline to be followed by the police, the immigration department and embassies throughout the world for professional and speedy justice to be provided to the women abandoned by her husband.
Submissions of the petitioners before the Supreme Court
These petitions in the nature of Public Interest Litigation under Article 31 of the Constitution of India raises raises major issues and challenges faced by women trapped in deceptive NRI marriages. Woman married to an NRI who is abandoned even before being taken by her husband to the foreign country of his residence. Woman brutally battered, assaulted, abused both mentally and physically, malnourished, confined and ill-treated and forced to flee or was forcibly sent back. That the inaction of the Union government results in the violation of Article 14 of Constitution of India which guarantees equality and equal protection of laws as well as that of Article 21’s Right to Life.
Petitioners seeking binding guidelines from this Hon’ble Court by highlighting the ordeals faced by the women abandoned by their NRI husbands who face huge difficulty at every point in bring their Husbands to justice. A women abandoned or duped by her NRI husband has to face obstacles at every point starting from lodging an FIR against the husband as the police is reluctant take the crime seriously to service of Court notices or non bailable warrant due to absence of correct overseas addresses of spouses due to which notice does not get served, without which the court cannot proceed. 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. When it comes to look out circulars, as the approach towards NRI abandoned brides becomes more difficult as it takes almost 4 months for issuing such notice as when the Investigating officer initiates paper work, this is signed by a senior officer which is sent to the Bureau of Immigration which in turn is sent to the Foreign Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) and to all immigration check point in India. In some cases, when the NRI husband abandons his wife and leaves the country, ascertaining the country to which he has left and the address of communication in that country itself becomes difficult or not even known. A true copy of the Office memorandum regarding issuance of Look Out Circular (LOC) in respect of Indian citizens and foreigners dated 27.10.2010 was also finds a place in the petition.
These petitions argues that after marriage the women is taken to the foreign countries and are abandoned in the foreign country with absolutely no support or means of bare sustenance or escape and without even the legal permission to stay on in that country. In some cases, husband, taking advantage of more lenient divorce grounds in other legal systems, may obtain ex-parte decree of divorce in that country through fraudulent representations and/ or behind her back, without her knowledge, after she is sent or forced to go back to India or even while she was still there and she is denied maintenance in India on the pretext that the marriage had already been dissolved by the court in another country. In certain circumstances, once the husband flees, the women is thrown out by the in-laws and also file suits for injunction against the abandoned bride and restraining orders are obtained preventing her from entering her matrimonial home. This is regardless of the situation of the women; often she may be pregnant or may have children. She is forced to go back to her parents place.
Petition states that the role of in-laws in such planned conspiracies. Once the NRI husband has fled, the in-laws take the benefit of anticipatory bail and disinherit their son. This leads to no accountability on their behalf. The women, in most cases are not working or have left their jobs because of marriage and all their cash and assets have been given as dowry. Hence, once she is out of the matrimonial home she is financially destitute without any support. When the embassies are called upon to assist, they show very little interest, treating the issue as a trivial one. Abandoned wives repeatedly write to the Embassies requesting them to find out where their husbands are and responses are rarely received. The Embassies do not even bother to respond to the cries of distress of Indian Citizens. When the women contact the police of the foreign country directly they are informed by the police that privacy laws do not permit the police to give away the location of their husbands. They are further informed that their husbands do not wish to be bothered by their wives anymore. Resultantly, the whereabouts of the husbands remain unknown for years.
There are many cases in which whereabouts of the absconding NRI husbands cannot be determined and the abandoned brides approach the Indian Missions (Embassies) in that country for assistance. However, as these issues are treated as mere matrimonial disputes, the Indian missions do not take such matters seriously and often do not provide any assistance in locating the absconding NRI husband. The abandoned brides have no financial and legal aid from the Government to file their cases and engage competent counsels in India. Once the bride is thrown out of her matrimonial home, she ends up returning to her parents place where sometimes, she does not find support. Eventually, the abandoned brides have no help from anywhere. This aid is only available after careful scrutiny where women have been abandoned overseas. The Scheme of Ministry of External Affairs for proving legal/financial assistance to Indian women deserted by their overseas Indian/foreigner husbands revised w.e.f 30.11.2011 is marked marked along with the petition.
Various newspapers have reported the increasing number of cases of the abandoned brides and the hurdles they face in availing legal remedies against the illegal crimes committed in marriage frauds. Being Public Interest Litigation, Petitioners relied upon such newspaper reports as well to buttress their arguments.
Legal Grounds of the petitioners
Petition says that the fundamental right of the abandoned women enshrined under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution are violated. It further says that these offences are treated as matrimonial cases of 498A only and not as cheating or fraud as the intention of the offenders are mainly to duped the victims and families of the property and money and absconding in a foreign country. It also says the police are reluctant to take up such cases involving NRI because of which the abandoned women are left remedy less. So the police throughout the country be directed to immediately intervene when the complaints are made by the NRI abandoned women that they are forced out of the matrimonial home by the relatives of the husband and others, to restrain the eviction of women from their matrimonial homes;
Most of the abandoned woman is financially destitute and is unable to take care of herself and her children, the Union of India frame a scheme immediately for reasonable financial support, employment, healthcare benefits, education for the children, housing, etc. petition argued that Indian Embassies/High Commissions throughout the world be directed to play a proactive and compassionate role in coming to the aid of abandoned women by their NRI husbands by locating the whereabouts of the husbands, engaging legal counsel abroad to represent the women and to take other steps to secure the arrest/deportation/extradition of the husbands to India.
Petitions says that the Constitution of India under Article 51A (e) envisages duty on every citizen, including the State to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women and the Supreme Court has adequate territorial jurisdiction to issue directions, orders and writs given the cause of action in whole and in part arising within the territories in which it exercise jurisdiction. Petition further argues that they have no other equally efficacious alternative remedy and therefore, the petitioners are approaching this Hon’ble Court by filing the present petition.
Prayers before the Supreme Court
This petitions seeks an order or direction laying down guidelines to be followed by the police, immigration department and Indian embassies around the world for speedy justice to be provided to the women abandoned by her NRI Husband. It seeks a direction to the Union of India that police throughout the country be directed immediately intervene when complaints are made by women abandoned by her NRI husband that they are being forced out of the matrimonial home by the relatives of the husband and others, to restrain the eviction of women from their matrimonial homes. It demand a direction to Union of India that the Indian Embassies/High Commissions throughout the world directed to play a proactive and compassionate role in coming to the aid of abandoned women by their NRI husbands by locating their whereabouts.
These PIL’s seek a direction to the Union Government that in all cases where a Court has issued a summon for appearance or a warrant of arrest of the NRI husband of an abandoned bride and the accused appears to be absconding/resisting return to India, through the embassies, that his passport be impounded and revoked and all steps be taken for the return of the husband to India.
The issue highlighted in this petition is having the potential to decide the fate of so many affected victims as some of the study conducted by the ministry of women and child development, Government of India and National Commission for Women revealed that thousands of women in India are affected by their abandonment by the NRI husband and they are not even bothered to attend the hearings in India. Now the ball is before the Supreme Court of India and various issues faced by the abandoned NRI wives could be effectively resolved by an authoritative pronouncement by the Supreme Court by allowing the prayers sought in these Public Interest Litigations.