5298 complaints by women against NRI spouses since 2016

5298 complaints by women against NRI spouses since 2016

Representative image.

Over 5,000 complaints were received from women by the government since 2016 complaining about abandonment, harassment and cheating among others about their Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) spouses with Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Karnataka finding a place in the top-six list.

Most of these complaints pertain to issues like abandonment, harassment, cheating, domestic violence by their spouses residing abroad, to ascertain whereabouts of NRI spouses, request for extradition, the deportation of the spouse to India, request for maintenance, support, divorce or child custody and request for legal and financial assistance to file a case against the NRI spouse.

Though there is no specific country-wise data, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has informed a Parliamentary panel, official records show that the majority of them come from "English-speaking Western countries, namely, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom". However, from the Gulf, there are "relatively few complaints of this nature.

Official statistics showed that the government has received 5,298 complaints between 2016 and 31 October 2019. The year 2016 had the highest number of complaints at 1,510 while it marginally declined to 1,498 the next year and further to 1,299 in 2018. In the first ten months of 2019, there were 991 cases.

Among the states, Punjab with 763 has the highest number of complaints followed by UP (501)Maharashtra (468), Delhi (436), Rajasthan (371) and Karnataka (341). There were no complaints from four north-eastern states – Sikkim, Manipur Mizoram, and Nagaland – while there were one each case from Meghalaya and Tripura during this period.

These figures were shared with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, which has examined the 'Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019' and tabled a report in Parliament last week. The Bill seeks to make it mandatory the registration of marriage of an NRI within 30 days, provide provisions for impound passport of the NRI if he refuses to register the marriage and issue summons.

The aim of the Bill is to locate the NRI who has "duped and then deserted his spouse" to bring him back to India to face justice and the registration of marriage helps collect details of travel documents and passport, which at present is a challenge. All such details could be compiled in a database of NRI marriages for better enforcement of rights under various family laws.

At present, an Integrated Nodal Agency (INA) has been set up as a single-window mechanism to try and find a solution to the problems of the affected women. The INA has held 16 meetings but could initiate issuance only eight Look Out Circulars and only one could be intercepted and brought before the court.

When the panel asked about the low number of LOCs, the MEA said the "one important reason" was the absence of passport details of the NRIs who are accused of deserting of mistreating their spouses and the proposed law could address this. It also told the panel that inputs from Indian Missions essentially set into motion the whole process of the government recognising this as a "major problem".


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