NRI marriages, what to be aware of
In India, marriage is taken very seriously. It is not so much about a couple deciding to spend their lives together because of love, but more of a social event where two families come together after considering pay packages, societal status, complexion, height, profession etc. Where grooms are concerned, Indian families are extremely attracted to the prospect of an NRI son-in-law and go to great lengths to find such a groom for their daughter – it is a status symbol after all, to have a groom who lives abroad. However, NRI marriages come fraught with certain problems, only because of greed and selfish intentions, therefore in an arranged marriage scenario, it is a very good idea to screen carefully and be aware of the problems that can arise. Also necessary is awareness of the legal procedures that one can turn to in case of a fraudulent NRI marriage.
Yes, the word used is fraudulent. Unfortunately such marriages are schemed in order to gain access to a foreign country for a comfortable life, for citizenship reasons etc. Often, the innocent bride doesn’t make it to the country in question – she and her family are swindled of their wealth and left high and dry by the groom. The fraudsters have it easy because many families, in their quest for an NRI groom do not carry out the basic background checks etc. that are traditionally done in arranged marriages. As a result of all these problems, divorce is also a fast growing trend in NRI marriages. The reasons can be anything ranging from discovery of another spouse and child, inflated and exaggerated descriptions of wealth, and general neglect once the deed has been done and the purpose of the marriage has been served.
The obvious thing to do is to carry out a thorough background check of the prospective groom or bride – and not to rush into anything. The family should not be in such a hurry to get their child married off that they choose the first available suitor who seems to fit their material desires. Most importantly, do be aware of the basic laws that are there with regard to NRI marriages and divorce.
NRI marriages have been known to throw up a lot of dirty politics as well – there have been reports of battery and abduction of children as well. Another common occurrence is the husband disappearing abroad after the honeymoon, assuring the bride that her visa is on its way.
Neither does the visa appear, nor the husband. in the event of the woman reaching the foreign destination, husbands have not turned up to receive her, in which case she is stuck, alone in a foreign country with no legal right to be there. In case she is lucky enough to obtain a divorce, she might go back to India and find that she will not authorised any maintenance money because of technical reasons such as her divorce was already legal and filed by another country by the husband etc.
According to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1995, if the bride and the groom are both Indian and have been married under the said Act then if they so wish, they may file for divorce after agreeing to do so mutually. The section 13-B under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1995 states as much – that divorce will be allowed, if there is mutual consent. While the Indian legal system will only validate the divorce if it is filed after mutual consent, if both parties are living abroad then they can opt to file for divorce under that country’s existing laws regarding foreign marriage.
There is a strong absence of laws to protect the rights of Indians who are married to NRIs but women’s groups and NGOs are rallying to change this. Some NGOs and groups have been formed specifically to offer counselling and guidance as well as legal advice and support to Indian men and women who are in a bitter NRI marriage. It had been proposed that NRIs who marry Indian women would be made to sign legal papers announcing their qualifications and past history. Filing a complaint and getting hold of a canny lawyer is the best way to sort out such messes as the laws pertaining to this particular problem is still sketchy in India.