In a bid to curb incidents of NRI husbands abandoning their Indian wives, the government will now collect data on all registered marriages, Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said today. It is also learnt that WCD has asked the Law Ministry to make registration of NRI marriages compulsory. “From now registration of all marriages will be linked to the women and child development ministry’s website. This will be in place by the end of this month,” Gandhi told reporters. The decision was taken during an inter-ministerial meeting where Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad were present besides Gandhi. The ministry will soon be writing to all registrars asking them to furnish data.
It was also decided to appoint an integrated nodal agency under the WCD to will look into complaints related to NRI marriages. This agency will also include officials from the ministries of law, MEA and home affairs. Sources said this step will be taken before the government announces a slew of other measures, including compulsory registration of all marriages which will have to pass the test of Parliament. “We have prepared a plan of action that will go to the Cabinet as it requires amending a few laws,” Gandhi added.
Earlier this year, the Law Commission had said that compulsory registration of marriages was a “necessary reform”. The commission recommended amending the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, and including the provision of compulsory registration of marriage. The government will also convene meeting of states as the topic comes under the concurrent subject list. In 2006, the Supreme Court in the Seema vs Ashwani Kumar case had observed that marriages of all persons, irrespective of their religion, should be registered compulsorily in their respective states, where the marriage is solemnised.
Based on these observations, a bill was tabled in 2012 to amend the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, to provide for compulsory registration of marriages irrespective of religion. While, as of now there is no central law mandating registration of marriages, several states have made it compulsory, including Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Mizoram. Today’s announcement follows a report submitted to the MEA in August by an expert panel it constituted on NRI marriages under the chairmanship of retired Justice Arvind Goel, former chairman of the NRI Commission of Punjab.
The commission had also recommended that India amend its extradition treaties with various countries to include domestic violence as a criterion for seeking custody of an accused. However, according to an official “it is not possible” to implement the suggestion. The panel also wanted impounding of passports of NRI husbands accused of harassing and deserting their wives. According to a report commissioned by the National Commission for Women, about 13,00 such cases were registered by its NRI cell between 2005 and 2012.