Fazal Ali, Saiyid
(i) Does long continuous cohabitation of a man and a woman as husband and wife amounts to marriage?
(ii) Does the alleged husband have a right on alleged deceased wife’s self-acquired property?
• The Plaintifffiled a suit claiming he was the sole lawful heir and entitled to the properties of his alleged deceased wife which she had acquired on her own.
• The Defendant No.1 was the daughter of the deceased to whom she had bequeathed her properties in the will.
• The Defendant No.2 was a wealthy lady of a tea estate and the stranger who gave the properties to her employee’s deceased daughter.
• The trial court decreed that the deceased was legally married wife of the plaintiff and was the preferential heir to her estate as per customary law applicable to the Rajputs of Hoshiarpur in matters of succession. The court further held that the will of the deceased was invalid as there was no power under customary law to make a will.
• Then, the defendants filed an appeal in the High Court where it held that the plaintiff has not succeeded in establishing that deceased was his legally wedded wife.
• Then, the appellant filed the appeal in SC.
• The Appellant contended that he was entitled to the properties acquired by his alleged deceased wife.
• The defendant contended that the appellant and the deceased were never legally married and that the will made by the deceased to bequeath the properties to defendant no.1 shall prevail.
The Supreme Court held that the continuous cohabitation of man and woman as husband and wife may raise the presumption of marriage, but the presumption which may be drawn from long cohabitation is a rebuttable one and if there are circumstances which weaken and destroy that presumption, the Court cannot ignore them. Polygamy, that is a relationship or practice ofhaving more than one wife or husband at the same time, or a relationship byway of a bigamous marriage that is marrying someone while already married to another and/or maintaining an adulterous relationship that is having voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person who is not one’s husband or wife, cannot be said to be a relationship in the nature of marriage.
We have, on facts, found that the appellant’s status was that of amistress, who is in distress,a survivor of a live-in relationship which isof serious concern, especially when such persons are poor and illiterate,in the event of which vulnerability is more pronounced, which is a societal reality. Children born out of such relationship also suffer most which calls forbringing in remedial measures by the Parliament, through proper legislation.
We are conscious of the fact that if any direction is given to the respondent to pay maintenance or monetary consideration to the appellant,that would be at the cost of the legally wedded wife and children of the respondent, especially when they had opposed that relationship and have a cause of action against the appellant for alienating the companionship and affection of the husband/parent which is an intentional tort.
The appeal therefore fails and it is dismissed. but in the circumstances of the case and particularly since the appellant has appealed in forma pauperis, we direct that the parties will bear their own costs in all the courts. Appeal dismissed.”
-Para 22 (Thakur Gokalchand v. Parvin Kumari)