The government hopes to provide legal and financial assistance to women who’ve been deserted by their NRI husbands in foreign countries, and ensure their rehabilitation and repatriation.
An inter-ministerial committee examined and accepted several such recommendations — made by the inter-ministerial sub-committee — at a meeting attended by Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury and Overseas Affairs Minister Vyalar Ravi on Monday. There was agreement over the sub-committee’s recommendation that provisions on serving notices and summons, and enforcement of maintenance orders be made part of mutual legal assistance treaties that are in the pipeline with different countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“It will help women in states like Punjab and Kerala get their dues from their NRIs husbands, who have deserted them,” a WCD Ministry official said. In normal circumstances, maintenance orders passed in Indian courts have little impact as they can’t be served to accused living abroad. Punjab alone accounts for over 15,000 women deserted by their NRI husbands.
The sub-committee also recommended that bilateral agreements be signed with other countries to protect victims of NRI marriages. And that such agreements include provisions that a divorce order of a foreign court be effective only if endorsed by an Indian court, decrees of Indian courts be enforceable abroad and Indian women be allowed representation in the country where divorce petitions have been filed against them. The WCD Ministry suggested these agreements be signed as soon as possible with those countries that have a large Indian diaspora.
For abandoned NRI wives, the sub-committee wants Indian embassies to come up with funds for their legal assistance, rehabilitation and repatriation. “The fund mechanism should be strengthened by engaging NGOs and NRI legal professionals to provide assistance,” the report says.
It also recommends that the government ask foreign missions to ensure visa isn’t granted without a marriage certificate and social security number, if applicable; that fast track courts take up litigation related to NRI marriages; and that the Law Ministry issue appropriate circulars.