Supreme Court upholds right of live-in partner to claim maintenance
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Bombay High Court ruling that a live-in partner is entitled to claim maintenance.
A Bench led by Justice Vikramjit Sen dismissed the appeal filed by the man against a July 2014 order of the High Court, which he claimed went beyond the legislative intent and framework of the statute.
According to the petitioner, he was married and had four children from his first wife, before he came in contact with the woman in Mumbai in 1986. At that time, he was associated with the film industry.
They were staying together and their relationship lasted till 1995 and during which a girl was born in 1988.
Taking the ground that the couple got married at a temple before they stayed together, the woman moved before a family court seeking direction to declare her marriage legally valid under the Hindu Marriage Act in 1996, but the same was resisted by the man. She had also claimed maintenance for herself and their daughter.
The family court, which directed the man to pay maintenance of daughter, had dismissed his partner’s plea for declaration of their marriage as valid and claim for maintenance. In July 2014, she challenged the decision in the Bombay High Court. While the High Court declined the woman's plea with regard to her marriage, it had upheld her right to claim maintenance for herself and her daughter and allowed her to move the appropriate court to claim maintenance.
The petitioner 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.
Hearing the case, Justice Sen expressed annoyance at the degrading manner in which the man’s petition referred to his live-in partner as a “call-girl” several times over and said he was a philanderer as he was living with another woman despite being married. "How absurd is your argument. You want the court to be sympathetic but you brand the poor lady as call girl. You are such an idiot that you went for relationship when you were married," the Bench remarked.
The Apex Court rejected the argument of the man, a Mumbaikar, that only a legally wedded wife can claim maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act.
It may be recollected that the Apex Court has previously recognized the concept of live-in relationship in Indian 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.
Read more coverage of lega aspects of Live-in relationship here.