Hindu Marriage Act not applicable to NRIs: HC

MUMBAI: A desire to get married the traditional way attracts young non-resident Indian couples to tie the knot in India, but the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) may not be applicable to them if they are domicile of a foreign country. The Bombay high court has said that the HMA cannot apply to an estranged couple who were domiciled in the US.

Justice Roshan Dalvi quashed an order of the Pune family court which had said Indian courts would have jurisdiction to hear a divorce case even if the couple had resided for a single day in the city when they came to India for a holiday.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Michigan-based Smita Muley who had got a divorce from a US court. Her husband Suhas Muley came back to India and filed another divorce petition in a Pune court.

“The man cannot confer jurisdiction on the court of Pune where the couple never stayed together for any length of time in their own matrimonial home (India), they having had their matrimonial home in the US,’’ said the judge. “The HMA itself does not apply to the couple conse-qu-ent upon their domicile in the US and also because the rights between the parties have been settled by a judgment conclusive between them.’’

The Pune court had said it had jurisdiction to hear the case based on Suhas’s claim that they had spent a night in his parents’ house in Aundh, Pune, in January 2008.

“The order of the family court, Pune, concluding that the parties last resided together in Pune and even though their residence is for a single day, it would give the court jurisdiction, suffers from material irregularity and is required to be interfered with.’’In the HC, Suhas produced documents as proof that he was domiciled in India: copy of his ration card issued in 2001, his driving licence obtained in 1999, a 1995 voter identity card and passport with validity up to 2019.

But the court was not satisfied. “None of these documents shows his intention to reside in India permanently; his Green Card shows he intends to stay in the US,’’ said the judge, adding, “It is easy to see that both the parties have had the intention of making the US their permanent home even prior to their marriage. Since their parents reside in India, they came to India to be married as per Hindu rites.’’

The court said Suhas could challenge the US court’s divorce order of January 2009 in that country. (TNN)

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