47-year-old law can help distressed women in NRI marriages

New Delhi : A law enacted in 1969 offers a ray of hope for distressed women facing harassment in NRI marriages, a Parliamentary panel has been told.

The Rajya Sabha Committee of Petitions was on Friday told by the Law Ministry that the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 has provisions to help women married to NRIs facing problems abroad, a panel member said.

In most of the cases reported in media, the husband is already married and marries again in India. In certain cases, the husband marries another woman abroad and abandons his first wife. Abuse for dowry is another problem Indian women face after marrying NRIs.

The committee had met to hear top officials of the Home Ministry and the Law Ministry on a petition “praying for solution of the problems arising out of marriage of Indian women with Non-Resident Indians”.

Members who attended the meeting said most people are not aware of existence of such a law.

The law was enacted “to make provision relating to marriages of citizens of India outside India.”

One of the key clauses is Section 14 which states that whenever a marriage is solemnized under the law, the marriage officer will have to certify it in the Marriage Certificate Book which will be signed by the parties to the marriage and three witnesses.

The certificate will be “deemed to be the conclusive evidence of the fact that a marriage under this Act has been solemnized, and that all formalities respecting the residence of the party concurred previous to the marriage and the signature of witnesses have been complied with.”

The law also provides for ‘matrimonial relief’ for spouse.

Sources said while various personal laws in the country can also apply, marriages solemnised under the Foreign Marriage Act will be governed by that law.

The government, meanwhile, has decided to set up a committee to formulate a standard operating procedure (SOP) to be followed while dealing with cases of NRI men abandoning their wives, after the Women and Child Development Ministry received several such complaints.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had recently met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and requested her to constitute a joint committee to develop an SOP.

Once the SOP has been prepared, it will be shared with various Indian diplomatic missions abroad.