Need to act against NRI men abandoning their wives in India, but is revoking their passports the best way to do this?
The government is all set to bring an omnibus legislation that will prescribe punitive measures like a revocation of an NRI holder’s Indian passport if he is found to have deserted his wife. There have been 4,300 cases of NRI men deserting their wives in India in the last three years. Under the proposed legislation, if an NRI husband deserts his wife and absconds, a court summon published in the MEA website will be deemed to have been searched. And, once the summon is entered as ‘served’, if person fails to appear in court on the given date, his passport can be cancelled and his property in India seized. The law will also make the registration of marriage mandatory within 15 working days.
The government has so far cancelled the passport of 33 non-resident Indians for abandoning their wives. The Passport Act contains provisions for cancellation of passport of a holder who has received summons for court appearance or has a warrant for his/her arrest under any law that prohibits departure from India. So, the new law will just formalise this for desertion of spouses by NRIs.
The larger point, however, is that, while there needs to be strict action against such abandonment, cancelling passports encourages further law-breaking. To be sure, before 2011, passports were not impounded and there was little that the deserted wives could do. But, revoking passports means the person is likely to remain underground/illegally in a foreign nation in a bid to escape the law.