Women abandoned by NRI husbands petition court for protection

Published : November 21, 2018 14:01 IST

There has been an increase in the number of complaints of domestic violence and abandonment from Indian women against their Non-Resident Indian husbands, without effective legal remedies. The complaints range from the husband’s indifference to court summons and unilateral cancellation of spouse’s visa by the husband during his trip to India to the cutting off of all communication, including denial of visa to the wife, once the husband reaches the foreign country after marriage. The complaints, among other things, underline the absence of an effective support system for women who wish to seek legal action against their NRI husbands.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has reportedly received 4,300 complaints relating to NRI marriages in the past three years in foreign countries. . According to Lata Wankhede, former chairperson of the National Commission for Women, NRI marriages are becoming a front for trafficking in women for the sex trade abroad. The MEA, taking these concerns into account, is reportedly working on a bill that will allow the government to attach properties of NRI husbands and their families if they do not respond to court summons.  

A public interest litigation (PIL) petition was filed recently in the Supreme Court seeking protection of the fundamental rights of brides who have been abandoned by their NRI husbands with the intent to commit dowry extraction, sexual exploitation and marriage fraud. According to the petitioner, Smita Kudaisya, a victim herself, about 40,000 women have fallen prey to such men and many of them are in a precarious situation financially, emotionally and in terms of health issues.

Smita Kudaisya has been joined by seven similarly abandoned and harassed women as co-petitioners. Their prayers to the Supreme Court include a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate order or direction laying down binding guidelines to the Centre and other authorities, to be followed by the police, the immigration services and Indian embassies around the world for professional and speedy justice to be provided to women abandoned by NRI husbands. It would include the following measures:

1 On a complaint being made of cheating, harassment, deceit, fraud, cruelty, mental and physical torture, demands of dowry, desertion, criminal intimidation, criminal assault, vulgar abuses, misappropriation of stridhan articles and criminal conspiracy and the like, the police shall immediately register an FIR and start the investigation forthwith and prosecute the accused in a fast track court.

2 Any nonbailable warrant or summons issued to the husband residing abroad should be served by email or Whatsapp immediately on the court order being made, and the guidelines of the Centre in this regard should be amended and updated.

3 Immediately on a complaint being made, the police should be directed to conduct a search-and-seizure operation by obtaining a court order if necessary.

4 Police should be directed to intervene immediately when a woman abandoned by her NRI husband complains that she is being forced out of her matrimonial home by relatives of the husband and others. This is necessary in order to restrain such eviction of the woman.

5 In cases where the abandoned woman is financially destitute and is unable to take care of herself and her children, the Centre must frame a scheme for reasonable financial support, employment, health care benefits, children’s education, housing and the like.

6 Indian embassies/high commissions should be directed to play a proactive and compassionate role in defence of the abandoned NRI woman by locating the whereabouts of the husband, engaging legal counsel abroad to represent the woman and to take other steps to secure the arrest/deportation/extradition of such husbands to India.

7 To immediately allow circulation of a look-out circular in cases of absconding husbands and in-laws after an FIR or complaint is registered.

8 In all cases where a court has ordered summons or a warrant for arrest of the husband of an abandoned bride, and the accused is absconding or resisting return to India, his passport should be impounded and revoked.

9 The National Legal Aid Services Authority and the state authorities should be directed to provide free legal aid by appointing competent counsel in all cases of complaints by such abandoned brides.

In non-adversarial cases like this, the Supreme Court has always displayed sensitivity and understanding by asking the Centre to file its response to the prayers of petitioners.  One hopes that the court will make a similar intervention in this case too.

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