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Law Commission Suggests Mandatory Registration In NRIs Marriages To Prevent Fraud Cases

The panel is chaired by Justice (Retd) Ritu Raj Awasthi suggested that the proposed national law should address every aspect of marriages between NRIs and foreign citizens of Indian origin marrying Indian citizens.

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The Law Commission has labeled the rising instances of fraudulent marriages between NRIs and Indian citizens as a "worrisome trend" and has recommended a comprehensive law to address this issue, along with mandatory registration of such unions.

The panel is chaired by Justice (Retd) Ritu Raj Awasthi who presented the report on the "Law on Matrimonial Issues Relating to Non-Resident Indians and Overseas Citizens of India" to the law ministry.

He expressed the commission's view that the proposed national law should address every aspect of marriages between NRIs and foreign citizens of Indian origin marrying Indian citizens.

Justice Awasthi said in his covering letter to Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Thursday wrote, "The rising occurrence of fraudulent marriages involving Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) marrying Indian partners is a worrisome trend. Several reports highlight an increasing pattern where these marriages turn out to be deceptive, putting Indian spouses, especially women, in precarious situations."

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The panel said that such a legislation should be made applicable not only to the NRIs but also to those individuals who come within the definition of 'Overseas Citizens of India' (OCIs) as laid down in the Citizenship Act, 1955.

"It is further recommended that all marriages between the NRIs/OCIs and Indian citizens should be made compulsorily registered in India," Justice Awasthi added.

He stated that the extensive national law should cover aspects such as divorce, spousal support, child custody and maintenance, as well as the process for serving legal notices and documents to non-resident Indians and overseas citizens of India..

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"Further, it is recommended that requisite amendments need to be introduced in the Passports Act, 1967 in order to mandate the declaration of marital status, the linking of a spouse's passport with the other and mentioning of the marriage registration number on the passports of both the spouses," he told the government.

The commission remembered that to address the developing situation, the Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indians Bill, 2019, was presented in the Rajya Sabha on February 11, 2019.

The bill was first sent to the Committee on External Affairs by the 16th Lok Sabha. After the 17th Lok Sabha was formed, the bill was once again referred to the Committee on External Affairs for additional review.

As deliberations continued, the Law Commission received a reference on the NRI Bill, 2019 from the Ministry of External Affairs, conveyed through the law ministry last April.

In its report, the law panel said registration of NRI marriages serves as a "valid piece of evidence", while at the same time it helps maintain a record in the form of registry of marriages.

"If the marriages are compulsorily registered, then all the records pertaining to the spouses would be available with the concerned government department, preferably, the Ministry of Home Affairs. The information regarding the same shall be accessible by the Ministry of External Affairs and available on an online portal," it said.

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However, there may also be situations where a citizen may become NRI or OCI after his or her marriage, it pointed out.

The report suggested that the challenge with mandating registrations solely for NRIs or OCIs is that their previous marriages may not have been registered due to the lack of a comprehensive and consistent law for marriage registration in India.

"Therefore, instead of making registration of marriages compulsory in specific cases, it should be done generally for all cases. Alteratively, it may be provided in the legislation (the pending NRI marriages bill) that if any married Indian citizen subsequently becomes an NRI/OCI, it shall be mandatory for him/her to get his marriage registered...," the report said.

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The Law Commission also suggested that the definition of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) in the upcoming national law covering all aspects of NRI marriages should be broad and inclusive.

It has to be considered that the object of such a definition is "to protect the deserted spouse in the eyes of law against the erring spouse," it said.

The panel emphasized that for a law to be effective, it requires widespread public awareness. To prevent fraudulent marriages, the government should engage with the Indian diaspora abroad to raise awareness.

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