India - Trial of NRI Matrimonial Criminal Offences
The vexed jurisdictional question for seeking relief in split NRI marriages for criminal wrongs has been set at rest by the Apex Court Judgment of 2 September in Thota Venkateswarlu v State of A.P., wherein it has been held that Indian Courts, with the prior consent of the Central Government, can try offences committed by an Indian citizen in a foreign country. The case related to a Hindu traditional marriage solemnized in Andhra Pradesh with allegations of torture meted out to the wife in Botswana. Accordingly, abandoned brides, jilted spouses, destitute children and offended families back home can now find solace with Indian Courts under criminal law.
Allegations of cruelty by the husband or his relatives, criminal breach of trust by misappropriation of a woman's personal property, dowry wrongs, criminal neglect to maintain spouse, children or parents, bigamous marriages and commission of adultery are commonly cited criminal offences in NRI marriages. Thirty million NRIs in 180 countries abroad makes their occurrence a high risk number. However, the process of criminal investigation and trial in India can be tardy and hedged with jurisdictional objections to thwart and delay award of punishment. In this bleak scenario, the Supreme Court judgment provides succor to unfortunate victims in dire straits on Indian Soil. Interpreting these provisions, the Apex Court has culled out a clear mandate of law providing an authoritative import to be followed by all Indian Courts as the law of the land.
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