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The Supreme Court has ruled that a “live-in relationship” would not amount to a “relationship in the nature of marriage” falling within the definition of “domestic relationship” under Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) if the lady in such a relationship knew that the male partner was already married.
The judgment was delivered by a Division Bench of Justices KS Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose in an appeal [Indra Sarma v. VKV Sarma, Criminal Appeal 2009/2013] filed by one Indra Sarma (Appellant) against the decision of the Karnataka High Court (HC).
The Court, however, also called upon the Parliament to enact a law to protect the interests of such women and the children born out of such relationships.
In this case, the Appellant had entered into a live-in relationship with VKV Sarma (Respondent) fully aware of the fact that the respondent was a married person with two children. It was alleged that the Respondent then left her company and failed to provide maintenance to her. She had sought relief under the DV Act which was granted by the Magistrate and subsequently by the Sessions Court. The Respondent had then moved the HC which allowed his appeal and overturned the decision of the lower courts. Aggrieved by this, the Appellant had approached the Supreme Court.
Advocate Anish Kumar Gupta, appearing for the Appellant, had submitted that the relationship between the parties constituted a “relationship in the nature of marriage” within the meaning of Section 2(f) of the DV Act, which takes in every relationship by a man with a woman sharing household, irrespective of whether the Respondent was a married person or not.
Advocate Nikhil Majithia, representing the Respondent, had argued that the Appellant could not establish that their relationship was a “relationship in the nature of marriage” so as to fall within Section 2(f) of the DV Act. He had also submitted that the parties were not qualified to enter into a legal marriage and the Appellant knew that the Respondent was a married person and that the HC was right in holding that there has not been any domestic violence within the scope of Section 3 of the DV Act entitling the appellant to claim maintenance.
The Court after hearing both the parties and the amicus curiae Jyotika Kalra held that,
“Since the appellant was aware that the respondent was a married person even before the commencement of their relationship, hence the status of the appellant is that of a concubine or a mistress, who cannot enter into relationship in the nature of a marriage…..the appellant’s status is lower than the status of a wife and that relationship would not fall within the definition of “domestic relationship” under Section 2(f) of the DV Act. Consequently, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent in connection with that type of relationship, would not amount to “domestic violence” under Section 3 of the DV Act.”
However, stressing on the requirement of extending legal protection to such women and children born out of such relationships, the Court went on to observe that,
“The Parliament has to ponder over these issues and bring in proper legislation or make a proper amendment to the Act so that women and the children born out of such kinds of relationships are protected, although such relationships might not be a relationship in the nature of a marriage.”
Earlier this year, the Madras High Court had held that observation of religious formalities was not necessary to constitute a valid marriage while allowing the claim of maintenance of a woman who had lived with a man and begot two children.
Full text of the judgment of the Supreme Court is given below.
Justice KS Radhakrishnan