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No-fault divorce leads to NRI fraud marriages

Submitted by: Susmita Deb

Texas law allows for "no-fault" divorce : In Texas, divorce law allows for no-fault divorce, which means neither party needs to provide evidence that the other party is at fault. But technically speaking, the divorce petition for a no-fault divorce will list "insupportability" as the cause (or fault). This is defined by statute as a marriage that cannot be supported because of "discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation."

Since the late 1960s, no-fault divorces have become increasingly more common over fault divorces. These divorces are often less expensive and take less time—which is why a majority of people opt for them. No-fault divorces do not require the person requesting the divorce to prove that the other party has done something wrong. In many cases, people don’t want the mudslinging that comes along with a fault divorce. In addition, these records may become public record making the most intimate details of your divorce accessible.

Indian, specially NRI groom are taking advantages of this no-fault Texas law which results in increase in NRI fraudulent marriage crime in US.

‘NRI marriages’, as generally understood, are between an Indian woman from India and an Indian man residing in another country (NRI), either as Indian citizen (when he would legally be an ‘NRI’) or as citizen of that other country (when he would legally be a PIO – person of Indian origin).

According to the Standing Committee on External Affairs’ report in 2011, Indians settled abroad or NRI take Indian brides and deserted her helpless. The issues arise when these NRI men marry Indian women and then abandon them after dowry extraction and sexual exploitation with the use of foreign divorce law. The wives are often deserted at crucial stages without any financial or family support. Also, the victim wives are abused by fabricated allegation in foreign land and some cases have also seen killing of the bride.

The common issues/problems relating to Overseas Indian/NRI marriages being faced by Indian women include - (i) Abandonment of the wife for various reasons (ii) Domestic Violence (iii) NRI husband already married (iv) Continued demands for dowry, pre and post marriage (v) Lenient legal system abroad in respect of grounds for divorce etc.

Husband, taking advantage of more lenient divorce grounds another legal systems, obtained ex-parte decree of divorce in the foreign country through fraudulent representations and/or behind her back, without her knowledge,after she is sent back or forced to go back to India or even while she is still there.The aggravated risk in such marriage is the woman is being ‘isolated’ far away from home in an alien land, facing language constraints, communication problems, lack of proper information about the local criminal justice, police and legal system. The situation is worsened by lack of support network of friends and family and monetary constraints which leaves the deserted wife completely helpless and stranded where ex-parte post-divorce groom doesn’t have to take the responsibility any more neither financially and bride has to come back to India forcefully.

Eventually, women face multiple challenges in the foreign courts when the spouse files complaint against wife in foreign country, it results in rejection of her visa application leaving her stranded in India, or he threatens to do so to render her helpless. The wife’s lack of knowledge about divorce proceedings or financial constraints to fight in the court is exploited. Privacy laws in foreign countries may abstain her from getting her spouse’s contact information. Lenient divorce grounds in foreign countries are taken advantage of by NRI spouses. Abandoned or post-divorce in the foreign country with absolutely no support or means of sustenance or escape and without even the legal permission to stay on in that country.

In such cases, woman has to be equipped with NRI fraudulent marriage knowledge. Do not panic if husband obtains divorce in the other country especially with or without your knowledge since it is not valid in India. Equip the woman with knowledge of the laws of the foreign country and the rights she enjoys there, especially against any form of abuse or neglect, including domestic violence and if she can get residence permit and other protections as a victim of domestic violence or abuse. Do not remain quiet, if faced with desertion or any other cruelty by husband and/or in-laws whether in India or abroad. Approach the authorities.

Above image shows the statistical data shows that in the period from 1 January 2015 up to 31 October 2019, a total of 6094 cases of NRI Marriage grievances have been reported and addressed. The year wise total number of complaints reported was 796 in 2015, 1510 in 2016, 1498 in 2017, and 1299 in 2018. In 2019, up to 31 October 2019, a total of 991 cases were reported. Majority of the cases had come from English-speaking western countries like USA, Canada.

An Indian-American legal counsel in the US had warned the Indian government a few years ago that nearly two in every 10 NRI marriages were fake or had ended in a divorce. While walk-in and walk-out marriages are the accepted norm in American society, in the Indian situation, the outcome can be traumatic. Trouble looms on all sides.

The importance of antecedent verification, awareness of women’s matrimonial rights, maintenance rights, dowry laws and information about passport and visa procedures should be made available and regular campaigns undertaken in USA to make people (especially Indian woman married to NRI) aware of these frauds.

Conclusions: Issues related with desertion and divorce of Indian women by their overseas spouses are complex and sensitive. They also fall within the purview of private international law. The approach in addressing these issues is to create awareness amongst prospective brides and their families regarding their rights and responsibilities and the safeguards to be adopted while entering into matrimonial alliances with grooms residing overseas.

Awareness: There is a need to provide for the following provisions for the welfare of the victims:

1.Simplification of procedure for quick issuance of visa by foreign Missions in India to deserted women to enable them to contest the proceedings filed by NRI / PIO husband in a foreign land.

2.Grant of ex-parte divorce by foreign courts be barred in the case of marriages solemnized in India as per Indian law.

3.Simplification of procedure to facilitate extradition/deportation of errant husband and cancellation of passport to face civil/criminal trial in India especially if judicial processes of Indian courts are not responded to.

4.Difficulty and consequent delay in serving judicial processes issued by Indian courts through the Indian Missions abroad to be addressed.

5.Need to develop mechanisms to enable quick tracking of NRIs/PIOs in case of desertion. Both countries of the Government Agencies should be available for help for deserted woman. Funds may also need to be allocated for location of such persons through agencies available for the purposes

6.Introduction of a system of cross check / consent, when a NRI/PIO husband wants to cancel sponsorship of his spouse’s visa. Cancellation should not be permitted as long as dependency of the aggrieved women continues as per Indian law so as to enable her to continue to stay and contest proceedings in the foreign land without being deported and thus deprived of the opportunity to contest the case.

7.Procedural delay/low priority to issue LOC/RCN against accused NRI/PIO husband in cases of marital discord needs to be addressed.

8.Cases of domestic discord to be included in the scope of extradition treaties. (219th Report of the Law Commission recommends inclusion of cases of domestic discord within their scope).

9.Recognition of NCW as an authorized body to directly make applications before foreign courts and foreign missions on behalf of aggrieved women where so required.

10.Building awareness.

11.Designating nodal officers/department for dealing with NRI issues.

12.Sensitization of police and authorities for registration of FIR & other NRI issues and quick action against Husband and in-laws

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