The Bombay High Court has held that in order to claim any relief under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, relations between the woman and her partner must be in the nature of marriage.
Justice Mangesh Patil of the Aurangabad bench dismissed a criminal revision application filed by a 30-year-old woman who sought the correct interpretation of Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV Act) after an Additional Sessions Judge set aside an order of a Judicial Magistrate First Class who had held the relationship between the petitioner and the respondent “in the nature of marriage.”
The petitioner belongs to Jain Hindu community and has a child from her marriage with one Shantaram Ughade. The petitioner averred in her application that her marriage with Ughade came to an end through a customary divorce on October 15, 2011.
Thereafter, the petitioner met the respondent who was married and already had a child at the time. As the respondent is a Muslim, the petitioner got converted to Islam and the couple got married in presence of a Qazi on July 21, 2012. In April 2013, the couple had a child.
However, the couple separated after disputes arose. A proceeding under the DV Act was filed by the petitioner before Judicial Magistrate First Class, Aurangabad. The respondent contested the said proceeding on the ground that both parties were already married and, therefore, marriage between them was legally not possible since both of them were having a subsisting marital relation. He also denied the fact that the petitioner was staying with him.
The JMFC allowed the petitioner’s application holding that relations between the two parties were ‘in the nature of marriage’ and granted various reliefs under the DV Act.
This was challenged by the respondent before the Additional Sessions Judge who held that the two were not qualified to enter into a legal marriage as they were already married and their marriages were still in subsistence. Hence, the relationship was not covered under Section 2(f) of the DV Act.
Section 2(f) lays out the meaning of a ‘domestic relationship’ under the DV Act. The court noted that the Sessions judge had relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Velusamy v. D Patchaiammal .
The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the meaning of a domestic relationship particularly the words ‘in the nature of marriage’ was as under-
[a] The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.
[b] They must be of legal age of marry.
[c] They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried.
[d] They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.
The court also examined the decision in Indra Sarma v. VKV Sarma [AIR 2014 S.C. 309] and said:
“Perusal of these decisions makes it abundantly clear that not all the live-in relationships are covered by the provision of Section 2 [f] of the D.V. Act. It is only those which qualify to be the relationship in the nature of marriage which are governed by that provision. In order to constitute such a relationship, a legal marriage between the two must be possible.”
Thus, the court concluded: “Once it is clear that in order to enable the applicant to claim any relief under the D.V. Act the relation between her and the respondent No.2 was not in the nature of marriage, she is clearly not entitled to claim any relief under that Act. Admittedly, on her own admission, her first marriage was still in subsistence, and if that be so, she could not have married legally with the respondent No.2 albeit he is a Muslim and his personal law permits him to solemnize the second marriage. In view of such state of factual matrix and the evidence, the observation and the conclusion drawn by the learned Addl. Sessions Judge that the relationship between these two did not fall into the 'domestic relationship' as defined under Section 2 [f] of the D.V. Act is unassailable. The Revision is dismissed.”