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Long Cohabitation Between Man & Woman Raises Strong Presumption In Favour Of Their Marriage: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
13 Jun 2022 12:57 PM GMT
Long Cohabitation Between Man & Woman Raises Strong Presumption In Favour Of Their Marriage: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reiterated that long cohabitation between a man and women raises a strong presumption in favour of their marriage.Although, the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seek to deprive the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage took place, the bench comprising Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath observed.BackgroundIn this case,...

The Supreme Court reiterated that long cohabitation between a man and women raises a strong presumption in favour of their marriage.

Although, the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seek to deprive the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage took place, the bench comprising Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath observed.

Background

In this case, the plaintiffs who filed a partition suit contended that the suit property belonged to one Kattukandi Edathil Kanaran Vaidyar who had four sons viz. Damodaran, Achuthan, Sekharan and Narayanan. The first plaintiff is the son of Damodaran, born in the wedlock with one Chiruthakutty, and the second plaintiff is the son of the first plaintiff. The defendants contended that all the children except Achuthan died as bachelors and Karunakaran is the only son of Achuthan. They denied the contention of the plaintiffs that Damodaran had married Chiruthakutty and that the first plaintiff was the son born to them in the said wedlock.  The Trial Court found that Damodaran had a long co­habitation with Chiruthakutty and thus it could be concluded that Damodaran had married Chiruthakutty and that the first plaintiff was the son born in the said wedlock. The Trial Court  passed a preliminary decree for partition of the suit property into two shares and one such share was allotted to the plaintiffs. Allowing the appeal filed by the defendants, the High Court held that there is no evidence to establish the long cohabitation between the father and the mother of the first plaintiff and the documents only proved that the first plaintiff is the son of Damodaran, but not a legitimate son.

Contentions/Issues

The appellant plaintiffs before the Apex Court contended that voluminous documents produced by them would show that Damodaran was the father of the first plaintiff and Chiruthakutty was the wife of Damodaran. The defendants, on the other hand, contended that there is no proof whatsoever either of the marriage or of the long cohabitation. The issue therefore considered by the Apex Court was whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the long cohabitation to establish the relationship of husband ­wife between Damodaran and Chiruthakutty?

There would be a presumption in favour of wedlock

The court, on examining the documents and evidence on record, observed that the plaintiffs have proved long duration of cohabitation between Damodaran and Chiruthakutty as husband and wife. Further, the defendants have failed to rebut the presumption in favour of a marriage between Damodaran and Chiruthakutty on account of their long co­habitation, the court noted.

Referring to various judgments on the issue, the court, while allowing the appeal observed:

It is well settled that if a man and a woman live together for long years as husband and wife, there would be a presumption in favour of wedlock. Such a presumption could be drawn under Section 114 of the Evidence Act. Although, the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seek to deprive the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage took place. 

Case details

Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan vs Kattukandi Edathil Valsan |  2022 LiveLaw (SC) 549 | CA 6406­-6407 OF 2010 | 13 June 2022

Coram: Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath

Counsel: Sr. Adv V. Chitambaresh for appellants, Sr. Adv R. Basant & Sr. Adv V. Giri for respondents

Headnotes

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 ; Order XX Rule 18 - Partition suits - Trial Courts to list the matter for taking steps under Order XX Rule 18 of the CPC soon after passing of the preliminary decree for partition and separate possession of the property, suo motu and without requiring initiation of any separate proceedings - The courts should not adjourn the matter sine die. (Para 32-34)

Indian Evidence Act ; Section 114 - If a man and a woman live together for long years as husband and wife, there would be a presumption in favour of wedlock. Although, the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seek to deprive the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage took place - Referred to Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation  (1978) 3 SCC 527 et al. (Para 15 -20) 

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 ; Order XX Rule 18 - Partition suits - The distinction between preliminary and final decree - A preliminary decree merely declares the rights and shares of the parties and leaves room for some further inquiry to be held and conducted pursuant to the directions made in preliminary decree and after the inquiry having been conducted and rights of the parties being finally determined, a final decree incorporating such determination needs to be drawn up. (Para 29-30)

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 ; Order XX Rule 18 - Partition suits - Final decree proceedings can be initiated at any point of time. There is no limitation for initiating final decree proceedings. Either of the parties to the suit can move an application for preparation of  a final decree and, any of the defendants can also move application for the purpose. By mere passing of a preliminary decree the suit is not disposed of - Referred to Shub Karan Bubna v. Sita Saran Bubna (2009) 9 SCC 689 ; Bimal Kumar  and Another v. Shakuntala Debi (2012) 3 SCC 548. (Para 31)

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