Eight women file pleading on behalf of 40,000 abandoned brides, want an immediate arrest, confiscating of passports and quick legal steps.
In New Delhi, eight women alleged that they were abandoned as brides by their husbands living abroad, thus have approached the Supreme Court seeking justice and measures to address their issue. The plea was filed on behalf of other 40,000 abandoned brides; they primarily want the restoration of the strict provisions in the anti-dowry law which provides for the prompt arrest of the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) husbands.
The Supreme Court on 13th November 2018 issued a notice to the Government, directing to file an affidavit within six weeks on the formulation of a policy on this matter. They have claimed that around 40,000 women are speculated to have fell prey to Indian men, leaving them in a “very dubious situation emotionally, financially, and in terms of the health”. Whereas, the men have fled to different countries such as Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand, and the other countries, usually with the cash and jewellery of the brides and they further go-ahead believing that nothing can be done against them.
They further state that the purpose of approaching the court is because they can't file the FIR in such case. The petitioners say that they had no option but to approach the Supreme court as, without any specific law, they were struggling to initiate any legal action against their absconding husbands. This petition also underlines the difficulties that the women face for initiating legal steps.
Most important is the hesitation of the police machinery to take the crime seriously. The police try to force the woman not to file a First information report (FIR). Even the lodging of an FIR needs effort, as their husbands being abroad, it becomes easy for them to ignore summons even in the cases that have made it to the trial stage. Quick delivery of the summons to NRI husbands is needed. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) recently cancelled the passport of around 25 men living abroad who had abandoned their wives, but the petitioners argue that even this process takes a long time.
In case of notices issued by the court and non-bailable warrants against husbands living abroad, the warrant is assigned to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which then forwards it to the body of Indian Mission Overseas. Often the summons/warrants are returned by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the local police station of the petitioner. This delays the process for months or year. The petition filed calls for the confiscating of passport. “If the passport is impounded, then men cannot avail of any benefits in the host countries.
"The host authorities to flag their names and without a valid passport, getting an emergency passport and returning home is the only option left for the men,” the plea reads.
The petition makes shocking allegations about the lack of concern of the Centre, the National Commission for Women and its officials towards them. Here is an example:
- Abandoned brides repeatedly write to the consulates requesting them to find out where their husbands are, and responses are hardly given.
- When women contact the police of the foreign country directly, they are informed that their privacy laws don't permit the police to provide the location.
- Absence of statutory rules, leads the authorities adopting arbitrary measures. In one incidence at Chennai, the authorities demanded the copy of the charge sheet and refused to impound the passports even after there is a court summons or a non-bailable warrant.
- Some members of the National Commission for Women are engaged in victim shaming. Some abandoned women met the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women in March 2018, and her remark was “Who asked you to marry an NRI?” This is the typical attitude of the Indian government, which is shameful for a body established by law for the defence of women’s rights to take the negative approach.
- During discussions with officials of the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) women asked them as to how could they recover their money and assets from their abandoned husbands given as dowry, they were told that the women should consider that their husbands as dead and move on. “Callousness and insensitivity on the issue prevail in the administration”, said the petition.
- No assistance or legal aid is provided to the NRI abandoned brides by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) or the State authorities.
Petitioners claim that abandoned brides have been ignored by passport authorities in Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ghaziabad, and Mumbai when they sought legal action against their husbands.
The petition has made the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Ministries of Home Affairs (MHA), National Commission for Women (NCW), the Delhi Commission for Women and the Maharashtra Women’s Commission, as respondents.
The petition seeks suitable directions from the Supreme Court to the Indian embassies and High Commissions to play an active role in providing aid to abandoned NRI women.