New law to deal with NRIs, OCIs marrying Indian citizens

Team Parvasi – Inside

New law to deal with NRIs, OCIs marrying Indian citizens
Toronto: Describing as a “worrisome trend” the “rising” cases of fraudulent marriages between NRIs and Indian citizens, the Law Commission has recommended a comprehensive law to deal with the situation and compulsory registration of such alliances.
While presenting the report “Law on Matrimonial Issues Relating to Non-Resident Indians and Overseas Citizens of India” to the Law Ministry, panel chairman Justice (Retd) Ritu Raj Awasthi said the commission is of the opinion that the proposed central legislation should be comprehensive enough to cater to all facets involving marriages of NRIs as well as foreign citizens of Indian origin with that of Indian citizens.

“The rising occurrence of fraudulent marriages involving Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) marrying Indian partners is a worrisome trend. Several reports highlight an increasing pattern where these marriages turn out to be deceptive, putting Indian spouses, especially women, in precarious situations,” Justice Awasthi said in his covering letter to Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Thursday.

Such a legislation, the panel said, should be made applicable not only to the NRIs but also to those individuals who come within the definition of ‘Overseas Citizens of India’ (OCIs) as laid down in the Citizenship Act, 1955.

“It is further recommended that all marriages between the NRIs/OCIs and Indian citizens should be made compulsorily registered in India,” Justice Awasthi said. He said the comprehensive central legislation should also include provisions on divorce, maintenance of spouse, custody and maintenance of children, serving of summons, warrants, or judicial documents on the NRIs and OCIs.

“Further, it is recommended that requisite amendments need to be introduced in the Passports Act, 1967 in order to mandate the declaration of marital status, the linking of a spouse’s passport with the other and mentioning of the marriage registration number on the passports of both the spouses,” he told the government.

The commission recalled that in order to deal with the emerging situation, the Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indians Bill, 2019, was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on February 11, 2019. Initially, the 16th (previous) Lok Sabha referred the bill to the Committee on External Affairs. Subsequently, the same bill was again referred to the Committee on External Affairs after the 17th (present) Lok Sabha was constituted, for further examination.

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As deliberations continued, the Law Commission received a reference on the NRI Bill, 2019 from the Ministry of External Affairs, conveyed through the law ministry last April. In its report, the law panel said registration of NRI marriages serves as a “valid piece of evidence”, while at the same time it helps maintain a record in the form of registry of marriages.

“If the marriages are compulsorily registered, then all the records pertaining to the spouses would be available with the concerned government department, preferably, the Ministry of Home Affairs. The information regarding the same shall be accessible by the Ministry of External Affairs and available on an online portal,” it said. However, there may also be situations where a citizen may become NRI or OCI after his or her marriage, it pointed out.

The only difficulty with making registrations compulsory only for NRIs or OCIs is that the earlier marriages of such persons may not be registered because currently there is no comprehensive or uniform law governing registration of marriages in India, the report suggested.

“Therefore, instead of making registration of marriages compulsory in specific cases, it should be done generally for all cases. Alteratively, it may be provided in the legislation (the pending NRI marriages bill) that if any married Indian citizen subsequently becomes an NRI/OCI, it shall be mandatory for him/her to get his marriage registered…,” the report said.

The Law Commission also recommended that the definition of NRI under the proposed central legislation dealing with all aspects relating to NRI marriages should be made comprehensive and all encompassing.

It has to be considered that the object of such a definition is “to protect the deserted spouse in the eyes of law against the erring spouse,” it said.

Noting that no law can ever succeed in fulfilling its aim and objectives unless the people are widely aware of it, the panel said to prevent cases of fraudulent marriages, the government should create awareness by engaging with the Indian diaspora abroad.

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