To address growing problem of NRIs deserting and harassing spouses, govt considers bringing in a new law that’ll make the erring spouse a proclaimed offender.
New Delhi: In a move that aims to step up the crackdown on “absconding husbands” in NRI marital disputes, the central government is considering making a law that will allow authorities to attach the property of such husbands.
The proposal, which could be legally controversial, was first made at a government meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in November, ThePrint has learnt.
The government, as part of this crackdown, is also examining the possibility of declaring the erring spouse in NRI marital disputes a proclaimed offender.
The government has been exploring different ways of addressing the grievances of distressed Indian women married to NRI spouses through an Integrated Nodal Agency constituted specifically for this purpose.
Given the government’s limited ability to enforce Indian laws in these disputes, it has so far proposed a number of steps to address them, such as making the registration of marriages mandatory, and creating a website for NRI services, where summons against absconding husbands will be uploaded.
Additionally, according to the minutes of the meeting held on 6 November, it has suggested that, “After serving three Notices/Summons, if the erring spouse still does not present himself before the court or attend court’s proceedings, his property could be attached by the court.”
While the legal tenability of doing so may itself be questionable, according to the minutes, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad “went a step further to suggest that the property of the parents and relatives of the erring spouse could also be brought under the purview of attachment of property.”
He clarified, however, that “as soon as the erring spouse attends the court’s proceedings in India, the attachment of property would cease to effect”.
“We are not looking at permanently attaching the property,” said a source in the government who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Only temporary seizing of the property of the husband or parents or relatives who were witness to the marriage is being explored.”
While the ThePrint has learnt that the issue is currently being examined by the Ministry of Law and Justice, there was no official response to queries from the ministry.
The Integrated Nodal Agency is headed by the secretary, Women and Child Development ministry, and comprises of officials from the ministries of law and external affairs.
While both Swaraj and WCD minister Maneka Gandhi have thrown their weight behind the issue of deserted NRI wives on a number of occasions, the proposal of attaching properties of not just erring husbands, but also their relatives, may be a “slippery slope”, the source said.
According to Minister of State, MEA, Gen. (Retd) V.K. Singh, the government has received a total of 3,328 complaints from distressed Indian women deserted by their NRI spouses during the last three years.
The complaints, he informed the Lok Sabha, included harassment and ill-treatment by the husband and his family, loss of communication with the spouse after he goes abroad, request for assistance in serving judicial summons for Court proceedings in India, child-custody issues, etc.
Last month, in a first, the nodal agency sought the revocation of passports of as many as 10 such offenders.