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Live-In Partner Can Seek Maintenance Under Provisions Of Domestic Violence Act, Says SC [Read Order]

‘In fact, under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005 the victim i.e. estranged wife or live-in-partner would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely, to a shared household also.’

The Supreme Court observed that a live-in partner can seek maintenance under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

A three-judge bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice KM Joseph was considering the questions referred to it in Lalita Toppo vs. State of Jharkhand.

The Reference

Before the apex court, an order of Jharkhand High Court, which held that Section 125 CrPC does not provide for the grant of maintenance to a woman who is not legally married to the person to whom such maintenance is claimed, was assailed. In this case, it was admitted that it was a live-in relationship.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justice TS Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph, referred the following questions to a larger bench:

  • Whether the living together of a man and woman as husband and wife for a considerable period of time would raise the presumption of a valid marriage between them and whether such a presumption would entitle the woman to maintenance under Section 125 CrPC?
  • Whether strict proof of marriage is essential for a claim of maintenance under Section 125 CrPC having regard to the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005?
  • Whether a marriage performed according to the customary rites and ceremonies without strictly fulfilling the requisites of Section 7(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, or any other personal law would entitle the woman to maintenance under Section 125 CrPC?

The questions referred would not require any answer

Referring to provisions of Domestic violence Act, the bench observed that the petitioner, in this case, would have an efficacious remedy to seek maintenance under the Act even assuming that she is not the legally wedded wife and, therefore, not entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. It also said that economic abuse also constitutes domestic violence as per the provisions of the Act.

In fact, under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005 the victim i.e. estranged wife or live-in-partner would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely, to a shared household also, the court said.

Declining to answer the questions referred to it, the bench said: “The questions referred to us by the Referral Order were formulated on the basis of the decisions of this court rendered in Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav vs. Anantrao Shivram Adhav and another and Savitaben Somabhai Bhatiya vs. State of Gujarat and others which were rendered prior to the coming into force of the DVC Act, 2005. In view of what has been stated herein before, it is, therefore, our considered view that the questions referred would not require any answer.”

The bench disposed of the appeal directing the appellant to approach the appropriate forum under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act.

Read the Order Here

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