Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • According to a 2018 Supreme Court judgment, live-in partners can claim maintenance in case of estrangement.
  • In the landmark case of Indra Sarma vs. V. K. V. Sarma, the Hon’ble Apex Court held that a woman in a live-in relationship with a married man will still be entitled to maintenance.
  • If a couple lives together for a significant amount of time, they will be considered married under the judiciary.
  • In another case, it was held that maintenance cannot be denied where there was evidence of the parties living together.
  • Under section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the husbands can claim maintenance from a financially well-off wife but there has been no such event where a male live-in partner can claim maintenance from his partner.

INTRODUCTION

The legal status of live-in relationships in India is not clear, but the Supreme Court has ruled that a couple living together for a long term will be presumed as legally married and the aggrieved partner can claim maintenance and protection in view of the same. Maintenance in a live-in relationship is decided by the court in accordance with the Domestic Violence Act and the individual facts of the case. A woman can claim maintenance in case a live-in relationship doesn’t work out but there is no provision as such for a man. This article focuses on maintenance to live-in partners, keep reading to learn more!

MAINTENANCE TO LIVE-IN PARTNERS

In Jagit Kaur vs. Jaswant Singh, the Court observed that the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 has provisions for the maintenance of wives and children to serve a social purpose. In Nanak Chand vs. Chandra Kishore Aggarwal, the Supreme Court while discussing section 488 of CrPC, came to the same conclusion that section 488 provides for a summary remedy, and applies to all persons belonging to any religion, irrespective of the personal laws of either of the parties.

After the consolidation of the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1973, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Captain Ramesh Kaushal vs. VeenaKaushal held that section 125 is a re-incarnation of section 488 of CrPC, 1898.

The word 'wife' has been defined in Explanation (b) to section 125(1) of CrPC as “Wife includes a woman who has been divorced by, or has obtained a divorce from, her husband and has not remarried.”

However, in Vimala vs. Veeraswamy, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court widened the scope of provision under section 125 and held that section 125 of Code of the Criminal Procedure, 1973 is meant to realize a social purpose and therefore the object is to stop destitution. It helps to provide a speedy remedy to the deserted wife. When an attempt is made by the husband to negate the claim of the neglected wife depicting her as a kept-mistress on the unfounded plea that he was already married, the court would enforce strict proof of the former marriage.

The term 'wife' in section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, includes a woman who has been divorced by a husband, or who has obtained a divorce from her husband and has not remarried. The woman not having the legal status of a wife is thus brought within the definition of the term ‘wife’ consistent with the objective.

However, under the law, a second wife whose marriage is void on account of the survival of the first marriage is not a legally wedded wife, and is, therefore, not entitled to maintenance under this provision.” The Apex Court again reiterated the law laid down in theVimala case in 1991 by protecting those women who weren’t having the legal status of marriage.

In Dwarika Prasad Satpathy v. BidyutPrava Dixit and Anr., the Court held that maintenance cannot be denied where there was evidence of the parties living together.

Giving a crucial clarification on live-in relationships, the Supreme Court had said that if parties have "lived like husband and wife" for a significant amount of time and had children, the judiciary would presume that the two were married.

Importantly, the Supreme Courthas declared that children born out of prolonged live-in relationships cannot be termed as illegitimate.

In the case of ParveenTandon vs. TanikaTandon, the Respondent-woman claimed that the Petitioner did not disclose his marital status when they first met. She also stated the petitioner executed a marriage agreement with her to show genuineness and responsibility towards her and her child from the previous marriage. The Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Justice Subramonium Prasad upheld the order passed by the Addl. Sessions Judge directing the Petitioner-man to pay ad-interim maintenance to his live-in partner under the provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. The Court concluded that the parties were adults and had cohabited for a long time voluntarily.

In a 2018 case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court Bench of former Chief Justice RanjanGogoi and Justice UU Lalit and Justice KM Joseph held that a partner in a live-in relationship can seek maintenance under the provisions of the PWDV Act.

In the landmark case of Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma, the Supreme Court held that a woman who is in a live-in relationship with a man who is already married to someone elsewill still be considered to be during a “domestic relationship” under the Domestic Violence Act. And hence the man’s failure to maintain her will amount to “domestic violence” within the meaning of the Act and she will be eligible to claim reliefs such as maintenance and compensation.

Men can claim maintenance if they aren’t financially well off from their wives who can support themselves. This is possible under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act which ensures that both husband and wife can claim maintenance. However, there has been no instance where a male live-in partner has had the right to claim maintenance from his partner.

CONCLUSION

There have been judgments where the courts have upheld the right to maintenance of live-in partners. However, these depend on the circumstances of the case.

Live-in relationships are not illegal in India, however, there is still a taboo when it comes t couples living together without marriage. Live-in partners deserve to get maintenance in cases of abandonment or estrangement as the relationship is in nature of marriage but not exactly marriage. There needs to be certain liability and responsibility in these kinds of relationships to ensure that the partner who is struggling financially gets support and shelter. Hence there must be a definite law concerning the responsibilities of partners in live-in relationships as there is for marriages.

The possibility of people entering into live-in relationships and then breaking up with them after they are done with them cannot be declined. There have been instances where the people have entered into such relationships, exploited their partners, and then deserted them. So to protect the partners who are dependent on someone else for a livelihood, there is a need for fixed law.

The law, however, should give protection and assurance of maintenance to both women and men alike without any differentiation.


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