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Live-in partner should be like wife to seek maintenance
Thu Oct 21 22:29:22 2010
views: 420 | Comments: 0
 madanme image By Madanme
Member since:Jun 22, 2010 23:18:57

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has held that a woman in a live-in relationship will be entitled to maintenance only if she fulfils certain parameters. A bench, comprising Justices Markandey Katju and T S Thakur, said an unmarried woman will not be able to claim maintenance by merely spending weekends or less time with a man as this will not qualify as a domestic relationship.

The bench laid down four criteria for a woman to claim maintenance: the couple must hold out themselves to society as being akin to spouses; they must be of legal age to marry; they must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried; they must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.

“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 (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act). To get such benefits the conditions mentioned by us above must be satisfied and this has to be proved by evidence. 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 court said.

“No doubt the view we are taking would exclude many women who have had a live-in relationship from the benefit of the 2005 Act (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act) but then it is not for this court to legislate or amend the law. Parliament has used the expression ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ and not ‘live-in relationship’. The court in the garb of interpretation cannot change the language of the statute,” the bench observed. The apex court passed the judgement while setting aside the concurrent orders passed by a matrimonial court and the Madras high court awarding Rs 500 maintenance to D Patchaiammal who claimed to have married appellant D Velusamy.

Mr Velusamy had challenged the two courts order on the ground that he was already married to Laxmi and Patchiammal was not married to him though he lived with her for some time. According to the apex court, the legislation was enacted in view of the new social phenomenon in the country in the form of live-in relationship. “In feudal society, sexual relationship between man and woman outside marriage was totally taboo and regarded with disgust and horror... However, Indian society is changing and this change has been reflected and recognised by Parliament by enacting the Protection of Woman from Domestic Violence Act, 2005,” the bench said.

In the present case, the apex court said that since the two lower courts had not given an opportunity to Velusamy’s first wife Laxmi to be heard, the directions passed by it was erroneous hence it remanded the matter back to the matrimonial court to examine whether Laxmi was the legally wedded wife of Velusamy.

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