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Abandoned by NRI husbands, women move SC to restore strict anti-dowry law provisions

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Eight women file plea on behalf of ‘40,000 abandoned brides’, want immediate arrest, impounding of passports and quicker legal action.  

New Delhi: Eight women, allegedly abandoned as brides by husbands living abroad, have knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court seeking justice and a more cohesive policy to address the issue.

In their plea, filed on behalf of “40,000 abandoned brides”, the eight women primarily want the restoration of the stringent provisions in the anti-dowry law that provides for the immediate arrest of their Non-Resident Indian (NRI) husbands.

The apex court on 13 November issued a notice to the Central government, directing it to file an affidavit within six weeks on the feasibility of formulating a policy on the issue.

In their plea, the women have claimed that around 40,000 women are suspected to have fallen prey to Indian men, adding that it has left them in a “very precarious situation financially, emotionally and in terms of health issues”.

“On the other hand, the men have fled to various countries such as Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand and the EU countries, often with the jewellery and the cash of the brides and go so far as to taunt their wives saying that nothing would be done against them,” the plea reads.

Barring one petitioner, who is from Puducherry, the rest are from across north India.

‘Had to approach court as couldn’t even file FIR’

The petitioners say they were forced to approach the apex court as, without a specific law, they had been struggling to initiate legal action against their absconding husbands.

“We have run from pillar to post. We have even begged police officials to just file a simple FIR,” Smita Kudaisya, one of the petitioners, told ThePrint. A former tax consultant, Kudaisya has initiated divorce proceedings against her husband, Sahil, who allegedly left her last year in November.

“We filed a plea in the Supreme Court as a last resort. The law needs to change,” she said.

Kudaisya also said some of the affected women are relying on the local village panchayats to sort out the issue. “The matter in the top court will help others who find themselves in a similar situation,” she said.

The petition underlines the difficulties that the women face in initiating legal action.

“First, and most important is the reluctance of the police to take the crime seriously. The police attempt to force the woman not to file an FIR. Even the lodging of an FIR requires a huge effort,” the petition reads, adding with their husbands abroad, it easy for them to ignore summons even in cases that have made it to the trial stage.

“There appears to be inconsistent approaches to the issuing of look-out circulars (LOCs) and generally in the case of NRI abandoned brides the approach is very lax and ineffective,” the plea further reads.

Also read: ‘Absconding’ NRI husbands could soon have properties in India seized

Calls to quicken delivering summons to NRI husbands

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) recently revoked the passport of at least 25 men living abroad who had abandoned their wives in India, but the women argue that even this action takes a lot of time.

In case of court notices and non-bailable warrants issued against those living abroad, the petition states, the warrant is sent to the Ministry of Home Ministry (MHA), which then sends it to the Indian Mission Overseas.

“According to the guidelines, it should take 120 days but in reality, it could take 6 months,” the petition reads. “Often the summons/warrants are sent back by the MHA to the local police station… This could delay the whole process for several months or year.”

The petition, however, does call for the impounding of passports. “If the passport is impounded, the men cannot avail of any benefits in the host countries,” the plea reads.  “Their names are flagged by the host authorities and without a valid passport, getting an emergency passport and returning home is the only viable option left for the men,” it adds.

Also read: Absconding NRI husbands may face severe travel restrictions

The women behind the plea

Smita Kudaisya

The 37-year-old and her husband Sahil moved to Sydney, Australia, soon after they married in February 2017. Nine months later, they returned but Sahil allegedly left for Sydney once again, this time without her.

Kudaisya alleged that in the first week of December 2017, days after Sahil left, she and her parents went to Panchkula, her marital home, and tried getting in touch with her in-laws. She was pregnant at the time.

“I remember ringing the bell of the house, but nobody opened the door. In eight hours, we made 200 calls to everybody we knew,” she said. “There was simply no answer. I fainted then and days later, I lost my baby.”

In her plea, she has alleged that Sahil has evaded all court summons, police notices and has not joined the investigation. She added that even though his passport has been kept on hold for renewal by Consulate General India, Sydney, he has not come to India.

Shiwali Suman

Suman married Tarun Kumar, a permanent resident of Canada, last February. She alleges that his family took large amounts of money during the wedding and that he left for Canada without her.

Suman has accused her in-laws of harassing her and being responsible for her miscarriage.

Her complaint states that while Tarun returned home in November 2017, he returned to Canada, following which Suman was allegedly forced to return to her parents’ home.

Tarun has returned to India and has joined the proceedings against him as his passport has been suspended.

Rupali Gupta 

Gupta married Tirlochan Goyal on 28 September 2017.

Tirlochan, a permanent resident of Canada, allegedly took large amounts of money from Gupta and her family. Her plea alleges that she was also thrown out of her matrimonial home, following which she miscarried due to trauma.

Her plea states that Tirlochan has evaded all police notices and has not joined investigation despite non-bailable warrants, LOC and an impounded passport.

Sumera Parker

Parker married Raashid Pathan, a permanent resident of New Zealand, on 25 October 2015.

Her petition alleges that her family had to pay large amounts of dowry and that she was treated like a ‘domestic help’ when she moved with him to New Zealand in February 2016.

Parker alleges that when she came back to India, her in-laws refused to keep her. Raashid has allegedly evaded all police notices and has not joined the investigation, her plea states.

Ritu Sharma 

Ritu Sharma married Sanjay Singh, an American citizen, on 29 April 2013. A month after the wedding, Sanjay left for United States of America (USA). He and his family allegedly demanded dowry to ensure that Sharma got a visa too.

Sharma alleges that in October 2014, Sanjay brought her to India but returned to the US without her. She claims that being pregnant at the time, she miscarried due to the trauma. Her plea says that even though Sanjay was served with court summons and warrants in the US, he has refused to accept them, as he is now a citizen there.

Rathiga Kumar Krishnan

Rathiga Krishnan married Kiran Kumar, who works in the US, on 17 February 2010. Krishnan alleges that Kumar and his family took large amounts of money from her family through the eight years of marriage. She further alleges that in the span of these eight years, she has been abandoned twice and has allegedly undergone two abortions against her will.

Krishnan had won the right to live in her matrimonial home, however, the lower court order was overturned by the Madras High Court and she was forced to go back to her parental home. Krishnan alleges that the FIR she filed against her husband has been stayed by the Madras High Court.

Amrit Pal Kaur

Amrit Pal Kaur married Kulpreet Singh, an Australian citizen, on 12 October 2013. During the wedding, Kulpreet and his family allegedly sought dowry from Kaur and her family.

Her plea claims that within two weeks of the wedding, Kulpreet fled to Australia with his mother. He has evaded all police notices, court summons and is refusing to join the investigation despite a LOC issued against him, it adds.

Reena Devi

Reena Devi married Rahul Kumar on 25 November 2012. During the wedding, Rahul and his family allegedly forced Devi’s family to fork out large amounts of dowry.

Four years after their wedding, Rahul allegedly fled India and entered the US illegally by crossing the border at Mexico. He has since sought asylum in the US.

Devi alleges that she was forced to return to her parents’ home once Rahul, a police official, left India. In her plea, Devi has stated that she has informed the US government about her husband, though she has not initiated any criminal proceedings in India due to his request for asylum. Rahul’s passport has been impounded.

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