May 28, 2023 11:57 UTC
Aug 2, 2023 at 00:30 UTC
Case Study: D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal
Right to Maintenance in Live-in Relationships
Citation: AIR 2011 SC 479, Criminal Appeal Nos. 2028-2029 of 2010
Date of Judgment: 21st October, 2010
Author: Justice Markandey Katju
Bench: Justice Markandey Katju, Justice T. S. Thakur
D. Velusamy (Appellant) allegedly married Lakshmi in 1980. Later on, he married D. Patchaiammal (Respondent) in 1986 and lived with her in her father’s house for 2-3 years. Later, he deserted her and on being asked to pay maintenance, he was not willing to pay. Hence, Respondent filed petition under Section 125 CrPC for maintenance.
The Family Court held that it was the respondent who was married to the appellant and not Lakshmi. These findings were also upheld by the High Court. But the Supreme Court held that since Lakshmi was not a party to the proceedings hence in the light of principles of natural justice, the judgment about her marital status by lower courts is null and void. The Apex Court further directed the Family court to determine her status by issuing directions to give opportunity of hearing to Lakshmi.
The case is significant as the Supreme Court laid down a list of directions for determination of relationships which fall within the ambit of ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ for the purpose of Section 125 CrPC and Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Whether an unmarried woman living with a man and later on deserted by him is entitled to claim maintenance from him?
The court held that Section 125(1) Explanation (b) of CrPC clearly states that only a ‘wife’ (including a divorced woman who has not remarried) is entitled to get maintenance from her husband. As per this provision an unmarried woman is not entitled to obtain maintenance. This was established previously in Savitaben Somabhat Bhatiya v. State of Gujarat [AIR 2005 SC 1809] wherein it was held that even a woman who unwittingly enters into wedlock with a married man would not come within the expression of ‘wife’. A woman who is not a lawfully married ‘wife’ cannot be permitted to claim maintenance.
However, the court also examined the issue in the light of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Under this Act an aggrieved person, i.e., a woman in ‘domestic relationship’ with a man and subjected to domestic violence (includes economic abuse) by him can be granted maintenance by the Magistrate [Section 20]. The woman can seek such relief in any legal proceeding before a civil court or a family court or a criminal court [Section 26].
The term ‘domestic relationship’ includes not only relationship of ‘marriage’ but also a relationship ‘in the nature of marriage’. A person who falls in either category is entitled to get the benefit of maintenance. Since the expression ‘in the nature of marriage’ is not defined in the Act so the Court interpreted this term on the basis of various case laws in other jurisdictions.
The Court noted the emergence of a new modern social phenomenon of ‘live-in relationship’ in which partners live together without marrying each other. In such kind of relationships some jurisdictions recognize that if such woman is deserted by the man then she may claim maintenance from him.
In USA, an unmarried woman living with a man for a substantial period of time and is later on deserted by him may get ‘palimony’ (maintenance) from him [Marvin v. Marvin [(1976) 18 C3d660]. Similarly, some other countries recognize common law marriage (also called de facto marriage or informal marriage) which is a type of marriage where no legally recognized ceremony is performed or civil marriage contract is entered into or marriage registered in a civil registry.
- The Supreme Court held that a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ is similar to a common law marriage. However, not every such relationship would fall under the category of nature of marriage, such as, merely spending weekends together or having one night stand or having a keep for sexual purpose etc. To fall under the category of ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ and to get the benefit of maintenance under the Act the following conditions must be fulfilled:
- The couple 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.
- They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time. [Para 33]
In addition to this, the Supreme Court added one more requirement that:
- The parties must have lived together in a ‘shared household’ as defined in Section 2(s) of Domestic Violence Act, 2005. [Para 33]