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Supreme Court upholds maintenance for live-in partners

May,6,2015: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said if a live-in relationship breaks down, the man is bound to pay maintenance to the woman and the children born from the relationship. 

Live in Relations
Live in Relations
A bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and A M Sapre dismissed a petition by a man who claimed that since he was already married before entering into the live-in relationship, his partner could not claim the status of a wife to be legally entitled to maintenance under Hindu Marriage Act. 

The petition was filed by 'Z', who works in Bollywood, challenging an order of the Bombay high court, which had held that his live-in partner of nine years and the child were entitled to maintenance after their relationship ended. 'Z' argued that he was legally married to another woman for the last 49 years, hence his live-in partner was not entitled to maintenance as she was well aware of his marital status. 

He said his live-in partner was a 'call girl' and alleged that she had decided to live with him on her own wish since 1986. They lived together for nine years and a child was born to them in 1988. 

Justices Sen and Sapre slammed 'Z' for referring to his erstwhile live-in partner as a 'call girl' and said he was a philanderer as he was living with another woman despite being married. 

"How absurd is your argument. You yourself went for the live-in relationship but now you are branding the poor lady as call girl. You are such an idiot that you went for a relationship. You are yourself a philanderer as you got into a relationship despite being married," the bench said. 

In this case, the woman had first approached the family court in Bandra for declaration of their relationship as husband and wife. The court, however, refused her plea after 'Z' told the court that he was already married to someone else. She then approached the HC which had said she was eligible to claim maintenance for herself and her daughter. 'Z' challenged the HC order in the apex court. 

The court in its various orders has recognized the concept of live-in relationship in society. It has gone to the extent of saying that if a man and woman "lived like husband and wife" for a long period and had children, the judiciary would presume that the two were legally married. 

In April, the apex court had said continuous cohabitation of a couple would give rise to the presumption of a valid marriage and it would be for the opposite party to prove that they were not legally married. 

"It is well settled that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a long time. However, the presumption can be rebutted by leading unimpeachable evidence. A heavy burden lies on a party who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin," it had said.

Couple living together will be presumed married- Supreme Court 

If an unmarried couple is living together as husband and wife, then they would be presumed to be legally married and the woman would be eligible to inherit the property after death of her partner, the Supreme Court has ruled. 

A bench of Justice MY Eqbal and Justice Amitava Roy had said that continuous cohabitation of a couple would raise the presumption of valid marriage and it would be for the opposite party to prove that they were not legally married. 

"It is well settled that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a long time. However, the presumption can be rebutted by leading unimpeachable evidence. A heavy burden lies on a party who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin," the bench said.

Live in Partners
Live in Partners
Children born of live-in relationships are legitimate- Supreme Court 

 Giving an important clarification on live-in relationships, the Supreme Court has said that if a man and woman "lived like husband and wife" for a long period and had children, the judiciary would presume that the two were married. A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and J Chelameswar recently issued the clarification on a petition filed by advocate Uday Gupta, who had questioned certain sweeping observations made by the Madras high court while dealing with the issue of live-in relationships. Importantly, the SC said children born out of prolonged live-in relationships could not be termed illegitimate. 

Justices Chauhan and Chelameswar said,"In fact, what the HC wanted to say is that if a man and woman are living together for a long time as husband and wife, though never married, there would a presumption of marriage and their children could not be called illegitimate." 

In 2010, the apex court had in Madan Mohan Singh vs Rajni Kant case said, "The courts have consistently held that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years. However, such presumption can be rebutted by leading unimpeachable evidence." 

The same year, the court had in another judgment hinted at the legitimacy of children born out of such relations. "It is evident that Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act intends to bring about social reforms, conferment of social status of legitimacy on a group of children, otherwise treated as illegitimate, as its prime object." 

Section 16 of Hindu Mariage Act provides,"Notwithstanding that a marriage is null and void under Section 11, any child of such marriage who would have been legitimate if the marriage had been valid, shall be legitimate, whether such a child is born before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976, and whether or not a decree of nullity is granted in respect of the marriage under this Act and whether or not the marriage is held to be void otherwise than on a petition under this Act."

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