The only woman Additional Solicitor-General attached to the Supreme Court, Indira Jaising, on Friday took exception to the use of the word ‘keep' in a Supreme Court judgment relating to live-in relationships and said the offending word should be expunged.

The judgment was delivered by Justices Markandey Katju and T.S. Thakur on Thursday.

Even as Ms. Jaising was waiting to argue in a particular case, Justice Katju sought her views on that judgment since she was the author of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Bill. Justice Katju, who wrote the judgment for the Bench, had said that not all live-in relationships would amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of grant of maintenance under the PWDV Act.

Quoting from the ‘Common Law Marriage' entry on Wikipedia — an Internet-based encyclopaedia that allows anyone, anywhere in the world to edit entries — Justice Katju had listed four conditions a couple must satisfy if they are to get the benefit of such a marriage: they must hold themselves out 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; and 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 had said: “If a man has a ‘keep' whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for s*xual purpose and/or as a servant, it would not be a relationship in the nature of marriage. Merely spending weekends together or a one-night stand would not make it a ‘domestic relationship.' ”


Ms. Jaising said: “As a woman I am very much hurt. I take strong exception to the use of the word ‘keep.' No woman is kept. How can the Supreme Court of India use the word ‘keep' in the 21st century against a woman? Can a woman say that she has kept a man? It works both ways.” She said the Supreme Court had to be gender sensitive. She told the Bench the word ‘keep' was a literal translation of the Hindi word ‘rakhel,' which is considered derogatory. “I would be moving an application for expunging the word,” she said.


At this juncture, Justice Katju, who was heading the Bench, told the ASG to confine herself to the case before the court. When Justice Thakur asked whether it would be appropriate to use the word ‘concubine,' Ms. Jaising said: “It would have been still worse.”

Explaining her stand later, Ms. Jaising said: “This remark by the Supreme Court was highly derogatory of women and against the cultural ethos of the country where women are held in esteem.”

She also objected to the use of another expression in the judgment — ‘one-night stand' — and said it did not befit the Supreme Court to use such highly derogatory expressions against women.

The ASG said: “We are in the 21st century, and India is a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),” and the use of such words against women in the judgment would set the clock back. She said India, its legislature and the judiciary were accountable to the CEDAW.

Asked whether she would file an application for expunging the offending words, she said some NGOs would be doing so.