Women In Live-In Relationships Entitled To Maintenance Akin To Legally-Wedded Wives: Punjab & Haryana HC [Read Judgment]
“Section 125 CrPC was incorporated in order to avoid vagrancy and destitution for a wife/minor children/old age parents, and the same has now been extended by judicial interpretation to partners of a live-in relationship.”
The Punjab and Haryana High Court in Ajay Bhardwaj vs. Jyotsana and others, has dealt with the status and rights of a woman in a live-in relationship.
A bench comprising Justice Jaishree Thakur determined the question whether Jyotsana would be entitled to maintenance under Section 125 CrPC on account of live-in relationship, not being a wife.
Ajay came to know Jyotsana in 2007, while she was still married to someone. He projected himself to be a divorcee and expressed his willingness to get married to Jyotsana (also the complainant in this case).
The two started residing together and out of this relationship, Jyotsana bore him twins in 2011. While residing with Ajay, Jyotsana also obtained a decree of divorce from her previous husband in the same year.
According to Jyotsana, she requested Ajay time and again to marry her but came to be informed that no such marriage could take place on account of the fact that Ajay was still married and had not obtained a decree of divorce.
She then approached law seeking maintenance.
Since Jyotsana had no independent source of income and as Ajay had refused to marry her while abandoning the children born out of this relationship, she preferred a petition under Section 125 of the CrPC, and was awarded interim maintenance at Rs. 20,000 along with a sum of Rs. 10,000 each to the children, per month by the district judge (family court), Gurgaon.
Ajay challenged the order of the family court’s decision to grant interim maintenance of Rs. 40,000 to Jyotsana and the two children born during the subsistence of their relationship.
Jyotsana further alleged she had got Rs. 40 lakh as permanent alimony from her previous husband, but Ajay had misappropriated the same by taking out Rs. 20 lakh to make personal investments.
Ajay argued that Jyotsana was not entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC since said maintenance is only available to a destitute wife, or minor children.
He urged that Jyotsana and he were not legally married and in fact, at best it can be called a live-in relationship and there could be no maintenance due to the absence of a valid marriage. He also claimed that since Jyotsana had already received Rs. 40 lakh as permanent alimony by her previous husband, she, therefore, had adequate source of income to maintain herself.
Jyotsana emphasised that she cohabited with Ajay and they lived together as husband and wife and in the eyes of society she appeared as his wife. She relied on a previous judgment of the apex court in Chanmuniya Vs. Chanmuniya Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha and another (2011) 1 SCC 141 to contend that it was recognised the factum of live-in relationship in which it has been held that a woman, who is party to a live-in relationship, would have the status of a wife should be awarded maintenance and the partner could not derive any benefit from denying maintenance on the ground that there was no valid marriage.
Although, Ajay Bhardwaj argued that Jyotsana knew that he was a married man and hence, was legally not competent to enter into a matrimonial set-up, Justice Thakur held that: “This court cannot lose sight of the fact that twins were born out of this relationship, which would be of some indication that the couple had gone for this relationship to give it some permanence and that can entitle respondent No.1 [Jyotsana] to claim interim maintenance, based on the evidence added.”
The court upheld the family court’s decision to grant interim maintenance holding that: “Section 125 CrPC was incorporated in order to avoid vagrancy and destitution for a wife/minor children/old age parents, and the same has now been extended by judicial interpretation to partners of a live-in relationship.”
The maintenance was allowed to Jyotsana in order to tide over the immediate difficulty that she was put to on account of the fact that Ajay was no longer supporting her financially. However, the sum was reduced from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 10,000 after considering facts and Jyotsana was allowed maintenance of Rs. 30,000 for herself and her children.
At the same time, Justice Thakur also held that the family court will also have to see whether or not Jyotsana is able to maintain herself on account of the fact that she had been granted Rs. 40 lakh as permanent alimony from her earlier divorce proceedings. The bench held:
“In case the court comes to conclusion that Respondent No 1 is not entitled to maintenance, then necessary deductions are permitted from the amounts already paid.”
Read the Judgment here.
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