IAS Target

The Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian bill-2019

Background

A marriage certificate is a page proof that two individuals are married to one another and therefore permits them to claim various rights related to the marriage. If the registration of marriage is not done, then it may create difficulty in proving its validity. All the states have passed this law making it mandatory to register marriages that happen within the state. Although, there is no union or central law requiring registration of marriages of NRIs performed outside India.
The Law Commission of India (2009) and the Standing Committee on the Empowerment of Women (2007) have suggested that registration of marriage for NRIs be made compulsory. They stated that failure to register a marriage can influence issues including those related to divorce proceedings stated in an outside country, child custody, or to cases where a spouse is formerly married. On 11 February 2019, the Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, was presented in Rajya Sabha.

Features of the Bill

Every NRI who marries Indian citizen or another NRI shall register his marriage within 30 days. In case an NRI skips or fails to register the marriage within 30 days, the passport authority may seize his passport. The Bill adds a provision to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973. If summons could not be served to a person, it can be served by uploading summon on a designated website. If the person summoned fails to appear before the court, it may upload an arrest warrant on the website.

Important Issues and Analysis

  • The Bill does not permit a late registration above the 30-day period. Non-registration could result in seizing of passport which may have aftereffects such as deportation.
  • The Bill amends the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 on the process of summons. This amendment is not only constrained to offences under the Bill, but will cover all other matters under the CrPC.
  • An NRI is called an Indian citizen who lives outside of India. Unlike other laws, the Bill does not describe the minimum number of days overseas to qualify as an NRI.

Important Features

Marriage Registration NRI who marries a citizen of India or another NRI must get his marriage registered within 30 days, as we mentioned above. If the marriage performs outside India, it should be registered with a Marriage Officer, who will be appointed from among the diplomatic officers in a foreign country.
Impounding of passport The Bill amends the Passports Act, 1967 to define that in case an Non-Resident Indian (NRI) fails to register the marriage within 30 days, the passport authority may revoke his/her passport.
Summons and warrants Recently, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 provides for a process for issuing warrants and summons. The Bill include a section to the CrPC to define that regardless of other provisions in the CrPC, if a court is satisfied that summons could not be served to a person, then summons could be upload on the designated website of the Ministry of External Affairs. This would serve as proof of the summons being served against the person. Court may issue arrest warrant on the same website if the person summoned does not appear before court. If the person does not appear before the court after issuing arrest warrant, then the court may pronounce him a proclaimed offer, and upload a declaration to that effect on the website.
The court may issue a written statement that the proclamation has been uploaded, if an individual does not appear even after a proclamation has been uploaded. This statement will be final proof that the warrant has been issued and served. Additionally the court may order attachment of the property of the proclaimed offender

Important Issues and Analysis

  • No extension period allow in cases of delay in marriage registration
  • The Bill points out that any NRI who marries a citizen of India or another NRI, either outside or within India, must get their marriage registered within 30 days. In case marriage registration not within 30 days, the passport of the NRI may be impounded. The Bill silent on extra time, if NRI is unable to register the marriage within the 30 days.
  • Many states have enacted laws for obligatory registration of marriage. While states such as Gujarat and Karnataka provide for a 30 days’ time limit and they permit late marriage registration on payment of late fees. Perhaps there are cases where NRIs unable to register the marriage because of legitimate reasons within the given time limit. The Bill does not have any provision for redressal for such persons. Keep in mind that the penalty for not registering marriage within the time limit is the impounding of the passport, which may have significant consequences like the loss of employment abroad or deportation, as highlighted above.

Amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) not limited to the Bill

The Bill adds a section to the CrPC that specify procedures for uploading of warrants and summons on a website if the court believes that the summons could not be served to an individual. So, this provision is not constrained to the registration of marriages by NRIs; it applies to all matters under the CrPC.
Example: this provision would address warrants and summons issues for other wrongdoing like embezzlement, traffic violations, theft, and domestic violence. It is not apparent why this provision is a part of the recent bill.

Non-Resident Indian (NRI) definition is not clear

The Bill states NRIs as a citizen of India who lives out of India. However, it doesn’t enumerate the number of days that a person must stay abroad to be designated as an NRI. It is therefore vague who the bill would apply to. For instance, it is not apparent whether an Indian citizen, who fails to register his marriage during 2 months visit abroad, would be charged penalties under the bill. It is vital to note that, under the Aadhaar Act 2016, the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999, and Income Tax Act 1961, non-residents are defined as a person who has been out of India for more than 183 days in a year.

Significance of the bill

  • Non-Resident Indian (NRI) married to Indian women on the pretence of false promises and left women in India after marriage. So, women suffer from harassment and mental trauma. In this situation, this Bill would provide much-needed help and relief to all Indian women married to NRIs worldwide.
  • Since marriage takes place outside India, there are no legal documents or records for further process to be started against the offender. So, this bill would work as a legal tool for women and women can get justice from unsuccessful marriage.