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Live-in partner entitled to maintenance: SC

Last updated on: October 8, 2010 21:13 IST

Live-in partner entitled to maintenance: SC

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The Supreme Court on Friday held that an adulterous relationship may become matrimonial by consent and referred to a larger bench the question as to whether a woman in a live-in relationship was entitled to maintenance from her man.

The apex court said a decision on the issue was required as there was a conflict between the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and Section 125 CrPC vis-a-vis grant of maintenance to a woman in a live-in-relationship.

While the Domestic Violence Act recognises the right of a woman in a live-in relationship to maintenance from the man, Section 125 postulates a situation in which only a legally wedded wife, aged parents and children are entitled to maintenance from the man.

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Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/rediff.com
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Live-in partner entitled to maintenance: SC

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"We believe that in the light of the constant change in social attitudes and values, which have been incorporated into the forward-looking Act of 2005, the same needs to be considered with respect to Section 125 of CrPC and accordingly, a broad interpretation of the same should be taken," a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said in a judgment.

The apex court passed the judgment while dealing with an appeal filed by Chanmuniya seeking maintenance under Section 125 CrPC from her brother-in-law Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha whom she claimed to have married according to their custom after the death of her husband Ram Saran.

Kushwaha had, however, denied the fact of marriage and refused to give her any maintenance. The matrimonial court in Uttar Pradesh had directed him to pay maintenance but the high court quashed the order, after which the woman appealed in the apex court.



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Citing a ruling of the House of Lords, held that cohabitation, was proof that the parties between themselves had mutually contracted the matrimonial relation.

"A relationship which may be adulterous at the beginning may become matrimonial by consent. This may be evidenced by habit and repute. In the instant case, both the appellant and the first respondent were related and lived in the same house and by a social custom were treated as husband and wife. Their marriage was solemnised with Katha and Sindur," the apex court said.

"Therefore, following the ratio of the decisions of the House of Lords, this court thinks there is a very strong presumption in favour of marriage," the court added.

The apex court said it was a general proposition that where a man and woman are proved to have lived together as man and wife, the law will presume, unless the contrary is clearly proved, that they were living together in consequence of a valid marriage and not in a state of concubinage.





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"Thus, in those cases where a man, who lived with a woman for a long time and even though they may not have undergone legal necessities of a valid marriage, should be made liable to pay the woman maintenance if he deserts her," the court said.
"The man should not be allowed to benefit from the legal loopholes by enjoying the advantages of a de facto marriage without undertaking the duties and obligations," the court added.

The bench said any other interpretation would lead the woman to "vagrancy and destitution," which the provision of maintenance in Section 125 is meant to prevent.

"We are of the opinion that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term `wife' to include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time, and strict proof of marriage should not be a precondition for maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC so as to fulfil the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance under Section 125," the apex court said while referring the matter to a larger bench.



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