The Centre is all set to introduce a Bill in the winter session of Parliament for stern measures against Non-Resident Indian (NRI) husbands abandoning their wives in India. This has been a long-felt demand with hundreds of cases of ill-treatment by the NRI husbands surfacing of late. Recently, the passports of 25 such husbands had been revoked. The development comes after the Supreme Court recently sought the Centre's response on the matter. 

A large number of NRI matrimonial disputes and fraud cases remain pending on account of non-appearance of the perpetrator, jeopardising the future of the women and children. Earlier this month, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi had written to the Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking a meeting of the informal Group of Ministers including Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad to discuss ways to expedite the process to bring a Bill to the Cabinet. A proposal that will have to be sent to the Cabinet has been in the works for many months and calls for amendment to the Criminal Procedure of Conduct, Passport rules and Marriage Registration Act.

A draft proposal pertaining to the amendments has been readied by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) but the Law Ministry and the Ministry of Home Affairs have certain reservations over some provisions. This is not time for dilly dallying on the issue anymore. The Centre has been exploring changes in law to enable confiscation of joint family property and alienation of land to stop any sale of commonly owned property. 

It is also being proposed to bring changes in laws for putting up unanswered summons on the website of Ministry of External Affairs to make considered as deemed served. Also, under consideration have been stringent measures like revocation of passports in case of husbands who fail to respond to summons and declaring him an absconder. Compulsory registration of NRI marriages within seven days of marriage being solemnised is another measure that the WCD Ministry has been demanding must be put on fast track. 

When spouses are taken abroad, it is usually on a tourist visa or a spouse visa. The latter are typically sponsored by the spouse, who then attains full control over his wife. The husband withdraws his support for his wife unilaterally and informs the authorities to this effect, resulting in her deportation. That has been the modus operandi of these errant husbands. Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and UP figure among the States with maximum complaints. The National Commission for Women has received 76 complaints from Punjab this year. Delhi (74), Haryana (56) and 55 from UP are some more. AP, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are some other States with such complaints. 

Country needs to step up deterrence from the outset by making marriage registration mandatory and bring in provisions to consider court summons as deemed served once one does not respond and act accordingly. Girls’ families also need to be more careful in verifying the credentials of the boys. Let us not forget that at least one woman calls home every eight hours seeking help to return after being deserted by her husband.

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