Live-in Affairs and Relationship in the nature of Marriage-Supreme Court of India’s Judgements

In a recent Judgement in October 2010, the Supreme Court of India has pointed out that ‘not all live-in affairs are ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’.Earlier, in the year 2008, as recommended by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the ‘National Commission for Women’ (NCW) sought a change in the definition of ‘wife’ as described in Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which deals with maintenance and recommended that women in live-in relationships should be entitled to maintenance if the man deserts her.

Accordingly, a bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat with Justice P Satasivan, validated ‘long-term live-in relationships’ as marriages and the bench declared that children born out of such a relationship will no longer be called ‘illegitimate’ and that Law inclines in the interest of legitimacy and thumbs down ‘whoreson’ or ‘fruit of adultery .
In the year 2010, one Mr.D. Velusamy was aggrieved over a Madras High Court judgment upholding a Coimbatore Trial Court order, awarding maintenance of Rs. 500 to respondent Ms.D. Patchaiammal, declaring her his wife, though his first marriage with Ms.Lakshmi was not dissolved.

In the beginning of October 2010, a bench of the Supreme Court of India, comprising Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly referred the issue relating to grant of maintenance to women in live-in relationships; whether it could be done under Section 125 CrPC or the PWDV Act to a larger Bench.

A Bench of the Supreme Court of India, comprising Justice Markandey Katju and Justice T.S. Thakur has pointed out in a case on 21st October 2010, that ‘not all live-in relationships will amount to a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ for women to get the benefit under the ‘Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act, 2005’.In the opinion of the Supreme Court, merely spending weekends together or a one-night stand would not make it a ‘domestic relationship’.

The Bench set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court and the Family Court Judge, Coimbatore, and remanded the matter to the Family Court Judge to decide the matter afresh in accordance with law and in the light of its observations as given below.

According to the Supreme Court Bench, a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ is akin to a common law marriage. Common law marriages require that:-

  • the couple, although not formally married, must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses and
  • they must be of legal age to marry and
  • they must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried and
  • they must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.

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