The Punjab Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act 2012 & The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act 2012, are two bills which had both been enacted by the State Legislative Assembly on 21 December 2012, and upon notification had come into force in 2013. Both these new laws seek to be milestones in equitable justice, and make Punjab the first State in the country to enact a human trafficking legislation to provide for the regulation of the travel trade, under the garb and guise of which some unscrupulous elements have been indulgine in illicit and/or fraudulent activities. Likewise, even though compulsory registration of marriages is now provided for in most Indian States, Punjab's first on this front has been the momentous step taken to make marriages of non-resident Indians and even foreign nationals also compulsory in the State of Punjab. Both these initiatives, products of a long exercise in jurisprudential practice, will go a long way in resolving knotty issues that plagued the system earlier, due to lack of legal frameworks in curbing new generation problems arising from a migratory horde of 30 million NRIs living in 180 nations worldwide. NRI Achievers brings you a report.
THE PUNJAB COMPULSORY REGISTRATION OF MARRIAGES ACT, 2012
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, leaves it open for individual state governments to enact compulsory provisions for the registration of marriages. The Supreme Court in 2006, in Seema vs. Ashwani Kumar, issued a mandate to all States to make registration of marriages compulsory by enacting legislations. In Punjab, it was this directive that led to the enactment of The Punjab Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act 2012, which provides for compulsory registration of marriages solemnized under any law governing the parties irrespective of their religion, caste, creed or nationality. Any marriage solemnized in Punjab is now compulsorily registerable and even marriages solemnized outside the State of Punjab may be registered at a place where the parties have their temporary residence in Punjab. However, if the marriage is already registered elsewhere, it need not be registered again in the State of Punjab.
Definition Of NRIs Under The New Law
The most prominent feature of the new marriage law is the definition of a “Non Resident Indian,” or “NRI,” to mean a person of Indian origin who is either permanently or temporarily settled outside India for employment, business, vocation, or any other purpose indicating a uncertain or determined period of overseas stay. Likewise, a “Foreign National” has been defined to mean any person who is not a citizen of India and shall include “Persons of Indian Origin” (PIOs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) who are defined under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and mean foreign nationals of Indian Origin who have earlier been Indian Citizens or qualify for Indian citizenship.
NRI Marriages In The Loop
The law in the making provides that every marriage between parties who are Indian nationals or NRIs or Foreign Nationals solemnized or performed in the State of Punjab, irrespective of religion, caste, creed or nationality, shall also be registered in the State of Punjab. The most significant feature is that for every NRI or Foreign National, it would be mandatory to disclose in writing his/her passport number, country of issue and period of its validity, besides permanent residential/official address of overseas abode with social security number or any such permanent identification proof issued by the host foreign country. All this information will be entered in the marriage certificate and the marriage register. Marriage would mean and include marriages solemnized or performed under Hindu Laws, Anand Marriage Act, Muslim Personal Law, or under Indian Christian Marriage Act, besides any other custom or personal law relating to marriages governing the parties.
Registration Regime Devised
The new law with enabling Rules has notified Chief, District, and Additional Registrars of Marriages, or other Officers to be 'Registrars of Marriages' for free and easy accessibility in cities, towns and tehsils. The new law notifies DC's, DRO's, Tehsildars and Naib Tehsildars for easy accessibility in cities, towns and tehsils. The Registrars so designated, shall upon scrutiny verify that the marriage between the parties has been performed in accordance with the personal law of the parties to confirm their marital status and identities. A memorandum of marriage signed by the parties and their priest will be presented to the concerned Registrar within three months of marriage in the jurisdiction where the marriage was solemnised, or where parties have temporary residence if they were married outside Punjab. Refusal to register shall be appealable, and the Registrar may also suo moto or on notice call parties and register any marriage performed in his jurisdiction. Any erroneous or fraudulent entry in a marriage register may be corrected or cancelled after giving due opportunity of hearing to the persons concerned.
Non- Registration Not To Invalidate Marriages
The new law states that no marriage shall be deemed to be invalid solely by the reason or the fact that it was not registered. This shortcoming is attributed to codified personal marriage laws in India, by which performance of essential ceremonies and not registration validates a marriage between parties. Hence, a State enactment cannot undo a law made by Parliament prescribing only ceremonies for recognition of a valid marriage.
Consequently, resorting to compulsory registration may have to evolve more into an accepted societal norm and practice, for the law to gain currency and recognition. Ailing that fact, it remains that Punjab has taken the lead to register NRI Marriages, which will help in curbing the social malaise of matrimonial frauds and ameliorate the plight of the so-called “Nowhere Holiday Wives.” Punjab would do equally well if it were to constitute Family Courts in every district in Punjab under the existing Family Courts Act 1984, to provide speedy justice to abandoned spouses and deserted children as well. Prevention is better than cure is the adage, but redressal of issues arising out of a broken or limping matrimonial relationship also need to be remedied simultaneously.