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Fraudulent NRI Marriages and Legal Issues Related to NRI Marriages

'NRI marriages' are generally understood as marriage between Indian women from India and Indian man residing outside India. NRI means non-resident Indian and the NRI man marries an Indian women the NRI man does not need to be citizen of India, he can be a legal PIO (Person of Indian Origin). All marriages containing these people would result in NRI marriages.

The problem arises when the families of such Indian women become eager to get their daughter married to such lucrative marriage proposals and they totally ignore the common cautions that are required during the marriages such as traditional matchmaking, thus if things go wrong there the women has very limited legal remedies and there is a very complex process for getting justice.

The risk in such a marriage is increased since the woman is "isolated" distant from home in a foreign country, facing language barriers, communication issues, and a lack of accurate information about the local criminal justice, police, and legal system. The deserted woman is left entirely helpless and stranded, and the situation is made worse by the absence of a social and financial support.

Following are some instances where the issue of NRI marriages can be observed:
  • Women married to an NRI abandoned even before taken by her husband to the foreign country of his residence.
  • Woman was brutally beaten, assaulted, physically and mentally abused, starved, confined, and poorly treated before being forced to flee or being sent back.
  • A quick engagement, a huge wedding, and a big reception, dowry, honeymoon, and then the NRI husband departs on a flight while the wife is in India awaiting her visa.

    The menace of 'honeymoon brides' is a big problem to deal with as over 20,000 brides have not seen their husbands after their honeymoon. There is a desire in Indian girls to get married and to go abroad, there are motives on both sides of the matrimonial alliance and not just the girl but through them their family members also seek to migrate abroad.

    Thus, NRI Marriage is seen as means to migrate abroad for not just the bride but also for her family members.1 1 National Commission for Women, The Nowhere Brides: Report on Problems Relating to NRI Marriages, (2011) Factors responsible for fraudulent NRI Marriages • A prospective groom, "carries a great status in India if he is a permanent resident or citizen of a Western country.

    The attraction of getting a groom serving or earning abroad is strong enough to lure many middle-class families to marry their daughters to NRIs. In the eagerness not to let go this opportunity, the families totally ignore the common cautions that one must take in traditional arranged matchmaking. Most of these marriages are conducted in such a hasty manner and without proper verification of the family of the groom.

    Thus, the groom is a stranger whose only attraction is that he is a NRI. Such alliances with NRIs are seen as promises of better future not just for the bride but for her entire family. Thus, the parents of the bride feel that the girl's marriage will result in gateway for the other members of the family to go abroad".2 • It is often seen that the family of the bride ask or try enhance the social status of the NRI men.
  • The family of bride consider the locally available grooms as either educated or unemployed, therefore making the local groom inferior to NRI groom. The girls parent think that their daughter will have a better and prosperous life if she is married to a NRI groom.
  • In most of the cases, the girls themselves like to get married to an NRI due to the peer pressure. They dream of freedom and open society in foreign countries and believe that the easy way for their dream to come true is to marry an NRI. In other cases, the girls just succumb to the wishes of their parents.

    2 Ibid Cases Related to NRI Marriages Woman married to an NRI was abandoned even before being taken by her husband to the foreign country of his residence. After a short honeymoon in India, the husband went back to his foreign country promising to send her travel documents, ticket, visa etc. but that never happens.
  • In case of Neerja Saraph v. Jayant Saraph, the wife who got married to a software engineer employed in the United States was still trying to get her visa to join her husband who had gone back after the marriage, when she received the petition for annulment of marriage filed by her NRI husband in the US court. In many cases the woman would already have been pregnant when he left and so both she and the child were abandoned.

    The husband never called or wrote and never came back again. The in-laws who would still be in India would either plead helplessness or blatantly refuses to help the innocent girl.3 Women who went to her husband's home in the other country only to face domestic violence, to be brutally battered, assaulted, abused both mentally and physically, malnourished, confined and ill-treated by him in several other ways. She was therefore either forced to flee or was forcibly sent back. She may not be allowed to take her children with her in most cases and in many cases the children are forcibly taken away from the woman.
  • In case of Venkat Perumal v. State of A.P, the wife was subjected to harassment, humiliation and torture during her short stay at Madras as well as US and when she refused to accept the request of her husband to terminate her pregnancy, she was dropped penniless by her husband at Dallas Airport in the US and she returned back to India with the help of her aunt and on the account of the humiliation and agony she suffered miscarriage at Hyderabad.4 3 Neerja Saraph v. Jayant Saraph (1994) 6 SCC 461 4 Venkat Perumal v. State of A.P II (1998) DMC 523 Legal Issues Involved in NRI Marriages The incidents of failed and fraudulent marriages of Indian women with NRIs are rapidly increasing day by day.
The legal issues or problems relating to NRI marriages being faced by Indian women include:
  • Issues related to child custody
    In recent times dispute related to child custody has been surfaced out of the fraudulent NRI Marriages. In some cases, fathers forcibly take away the child abroad, while in others, mothers return with their child to India finding it difficult to live in a hostile environment in the foreign country. In doing so they might be violating the custody and visitation orders granted by foreign courts.

    Following are some cases related to child custody In case of Sarita Sharma v. Sushil Sharma, the husband had filed a case for divorce in American courts and while the legal battle for custody was still on, both the parties having been appointed as managing conservators of the children, the wife brought the children to India, allegedly without even informing the husband. It was alleged by the husband that the children were in illegal custody of Sarita Sharma and the High Court had allowed the petition and directed Sarita to restore the custody of two children to the husband.5
  • Issues related to divorce and separation
    In most cases of NRI marriages husbands abandon their wives for the termination of marriages and after such abandonment of wives in their original countries and initiate divorce proceedings in foreign lands. These proceedings are full of problems for the women who are abandoned outside the country, and since the wife has no resources, she is not able to go abroad to contest the proceeding and the husbands easily procures an ex-parte divorce decree. The wives do not have financial support to hire a lawyer to represent their rights and contest on their behalf. Thus, most of these abandoned women are forced to accept an exparte divorce without contesting it. 5 Sarita Sharma v. Sushil Sharma (2003) 3 SCC 14
  • Issues related to maintenance and execution of maintenance orders
Marriage with an NRI is considered to be the easiest way to migrate abroad. However, they mostly turned out to be fraudulent and pose serious repercussions not only for the woman and her family but also for the society as a whole. Areas of family law in which the problems of jurisdiction are seen occurring very frequently relate to dissolution of marriage, maintenance issues, validity and execution of foreign court orders, inter-parental child abduction, succession of property of non-resident Indians. However, the problems in NRI marriages are complex but the solutions are few or non-existent.

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