M A I N   N E W S

SC defines rules for live-in couples
To get benefits of marriage, a live-in bond has to be more than a one-night stand 
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 21
The Supreme Court today ruled that each and every live-in relationship could not be categorised as a “relationship in the nature of marriage” which entitles women to maintenance.

“In our opinion a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ is akin to a common law marriage” recognised in some countries in the absence of a formal marriage, a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and TS Thakur said.

The Bench laid down five conditions for recognising a relationship as a “relationship in the nature of marriage.”

“Merely spending weekends together or a one-night stand would not make it a domestic relationship. In our opinion, not all live-in relationships will amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of the Act of 2005. To get such benefits, the conditions mentioned by us must be satisfied, and this has to be proved by evidence,” the Bench ruled.

Writing the verdict for the Bench, Justice Katju further explained that “if a man has a ‘keep’ whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and/or as a servant it would not, in our opinion, be a relationship in the nature of marriage.”

The Bench acknowledged that its view would exclude many women who “have had a live-in relationship from the benefit of the 2005 Act, but then it is not for this Court to legislate or amend the law.”

The Court took upon itself the trouble of laying down the conditions as Parliament while enacting the law in 2005 had used the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage” and not “live-in relationship,” the Bench explained. Section 125 of CrPC provided for maintenance only to the legally-wedded wife, dependent parents and children. But the Domestic Violence Act expanded the scope to relationship “in the nature of marriage.”

The Bench said it felt the need for interpreting it because a large number of cases of this nature would be coming up before various courts in the country. “In our opinion, Parliament by the aforesaid Act has drawn a distinction between the relationship of marriage and a relationship in the nature of marriage, and has provided that in either case the person who enters into either relationship is entitled to the benefit of the Act.”

Talking about the changes sweeping the society, the Bench said in feudal society sexual relationship between man and woman outside marriage was totally taboo and regarded with disgust and horror. This was depicted in Leo Tolstoy’s novel “Anna Karenina,” Gustave Flaubert’s novel “Madame Bovary” and the novels of the great Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya.

“However, Indian society is changing, and this change has been reflected and recognised by Parliament” by enacting the law against domestic violence, the apex court opined. The Bench laid down the definition in a case by a man challenging the claim of a woman that she was his wife.

The parameters for live-in couples

z The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.

z They must be of legal age to marry.

z They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a ‘significant period of time’. (The Bench underlined the words “for a significant period of time” without specifying any time period).

z The couple must have lived together in a “shared household”, as defined in Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005





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