NRIs Who Abandon Their Wife To Lose Assets In India
In 1994, the Neerja Saraph vs Jayant Saraph case came to the fore. After marrying Neerja, Jayant returned to the US and persuaded his wife to give up her job in India. Soon after, he also applied for the annulment of the marriage in the US. Neerja, thereafter, filed a suit claiming damages and obtained an ex-parte decree for Rs 22 lakh. The Supreme Court (SC) also directed Jayant to make an interim deposit of Rs 4 lakh to his wife.
Multiple cases of non-resident Indian (NRI) husbands abandoning their Indian wives have come to the fore and taking cognizance of this fact, the government is preparing stringent rules to punish such offenders. The external affairs ministry recently came up with the data that one woman calls home seeking help to return after desertion or escape harassment every eight hours. Most of these women are from Punjab, Seemandhra-Telangana and Gujarat. Between January 1, 2015 to November 30, 2017, the ministry received as many as 3,328 distress calls.
Now, such husbands may stand to lose their property in India.
Here’s what you need to know about this development:
Efforts undertaken to create awareness
In January 2007, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs released a booklet titled Marriages to Overseas Indians – A Guidance Booklet setting out legal rights and obligations that govern such weddings. The 98-page booklet charted precautions, rights, matrimonial disputes, contacts of Embassy officials and relevant non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and how to legally tackle them. This tells us how rampant the issue of NRI husbands deserting their wives has become.
The ministry also tried alerting parents of the bride as well as the brides-to-be to first verify what an NRI to-be-groom claims what he is. For example, such families should first check the marital status, the employment details, the immigration status, the type of visa, whether the groom is eligible to take a spouse along, the properties said to be owned, the criminal antecedents, the family background, the voter/alien registartion card, the social security number, tax returns of the preceeding three years, bank papers and property papers as well.
Maintenance of women who are ill-treated or deserted
Different laws apply to women of different religions. While Hindu women and their children are entitled to get separate maintenance, Parsi women are entitled to permanent alimony and maintenance as well as the just and proper share of the joint property.
In case of Muslim women, if the whereabouts of the husband is not known for four years or if he has failed to provide the maintenance for two years, the woman can call for the dissolution of the marriage. On divorce, the woman can claim the Mahr or an amount equal to it and a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance has to be made by the former husband within the Iddat period. Maintenance for the children also must be provided by the husband. The property/properties given to her before or at the time of the marriage will also go back to her upon divorce.
Christian women can present a petition for divorce if the husband has deserted her for at least two years preceding the divorce petition. She can also claim maintenance from the ancestral property of the husband and if the latter does not comply, he can be arrested.
In all these cases, if the child is under five years of age, the mother is entrusted with his/her care.
*In a fresh development, the Ministry of External Affairs will now display the summons to such men on their official website. Not just this, passport revocation and Look Out Circulars (LoC) have also been generated in the past so as to deal with the issue with a tough hand.
*It has also been proposed that all NRI marriages should be registered within 48 hours or else the visa, passport of the husband would not be issued.
*Last year, Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said that the government will now collect all data on registered marriages and registration of all NRI marriages are now compulsory.
*It was also made sure that all such registrations would be linked to the women and child development ministry’s website.
* The Narendra Modi-led government has planned to help such women with a financial help of $2,000-3,000 depending upon whether she is in a developed country or a developing one.
*Deserted women can also register their grievances on an online portal which is yet to be launched.
*Recommendations are also being considered to get the passport cancelled of such husbands. In such a case if the husband is in India, he wouldn’t be able to leave the country. If he is abroad, he would be deported.
*If recommendations are approved, properties of such an NRI husband or that of his relatives may be seized to aid the hapless woman in such cases.