A file photo of Indian passports.(Representative Photo)
A file photo of Indian passports.(Representative Photo)

Measures proposed against NRIs who desert their wives ‘untenable’: Law ministry

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi has written to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to call another meeting to end the deadlock that threatens to derail the move to help abandoned wives.
By Moushumi Das Gupta | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 21, 2018 04:36 PM IST

The law ministry has shot down as legally untenable a string of measures, such as impounding of passports and confiscation of property, suggested by an inter-ministerial group to deter NRI men from deserting their wives, officials familiar with the development have said.

Women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi last week wrote to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who heads the group, to call another meeting to end the deadlock that threatens to derail the move to help abandoned wives.

“The law ministry’s position has resulted in all efforts made so far coming to a standstill. There will be no deterrent unless stringent steps are taken against … NRI men who have failed to respond to repeated summons,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

With more and more Indians going abroad to study and work, there has been a sharp rise in men deserting their wives after marrying them in India.

The National Commission for Women (NCW) received 346 complaints from such women in 2014, the latest year for which figures are available.

They were mostly about men preventing women from travelling by taking away their passports, disappearing after marriage, abandoning them in foreign countries and keeping children abroad with no contact with the mother.

The number would be much higher as only a handful of women come forward with their complaints, WCD ministry officials say.

The ministerial panel was set up in 2017 to review the legal and regulatory challenges faced by women. Nitin Gadkari, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Maneka Gandhi, Smriti Irani, Narendra Singh Tomar and VK Singh are the other members of the group.

The panel also suggested that the external affairs ministry put on its website summons issued to NRI men after they fail to respond to the one sent to their address. Such notices were to be treated as “deemed to have been served”.

The current practice is that once a woman lodges a complaint, police write to embassies that issue a summons but in most cases it is not received as either the address is false or the person has moved to a new place.

“The law ministry has not agreed to this proposal also. Without this, the regulatory framework that the inter-ministerial panel had recommended to help women abandoned or abused by NRI husbands will not have any meaning,” a WCD ministry official said.

Following the recommendations, Gandhi had written to the home and law ministries to make necessary changes in the law to make the suggestions operational.The ministry had on December 20 constituted an integrated nodal agency for addressing NRI marital disputes.

The agency, headed by WCD secretary Rakesh Srivastava, has held eight meetings and issued six lookout circulars for husbands who have ignored non-bailable warrants

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