Case Number

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2009 OF 2013

Equivalent Citation

AIR 2014 SC 309

Bench

K.S. Radhakrishnan, Pinaki Chandra Ghose

Author of the Judgement-

K.S. Radhakrishnan, J.

Decided on

26 November 2013

 Relevant Act/ Section

Section 2, 3, 12, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act)

Brief Facts and Procedural History

Appellant(unmarried) and Respondent(married and having two kids) were in a live-in relationship for about 18 years. Respondent quit his job and they were earning from the business they set up in her name. Later, R moved work to his home and depriving her of working and earning. He took money from her on various occasions that were never returned, forced her to take contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancy, harassed her by not allowing her to suffix his name, have joint bank accounts, or never even took her to meet his friends or relatives.

Contentions of the Appellant

  • Contended that the relationship between them constituted a relationship in the nature of marriage within the meaning of Section 2(f) of the DV Act. 
  • Avoided her without providing maintenance.
  • She claimed various reliefs under DV Act: –
  • Protection Order under Section 18 of the DV Act
  • Residence order under Section 19 of the DV Act
  • Monetary order under Section 20 of the DV Act
  • compensation order under Section 22 of the DV Act to a sum of Rs.3,50,000/- towards damages for misusing the funds of the sister of the appellant, mental torture, and emotional feelings;
  • an ex-parte interim order under Section 23 of the DV Act towards medical expenses and a fixed sum as maintenance charges every month.

Contentions of the Respondent

  • He denied all the allegations made by the appellant
  • He contended that the tests laid down in  D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal (2010) were not satisfied as the parties were not qualified to enter into a legal marriage. Also, the appellant knew that the respondent was a married person.

Trial Court-  Took the view that plea of domestic violence was established ( because of considerable time living together and leaving the appellant without maintaining her) and directed the respondent to pay maintenance of a fixed amount every month to the appellant.

Sessions Court- Confirmed the order passed by the learned Magistrate.

High Court- Held that relationship between the parties was not that of relationship in nature of marriage and the tests laid down in D Velusamy case was not satisfied. Hence, the judgments of the lower Courts were set aside. 

Issues before the Supreme Court

  1. Whether a live-in relationship would amount to a relationship in nature of marriage within the definition of domestic relationship under Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
  1. Whether disruption of such a relationship by failure to maintain woman involved in such a relationship amounts to domestic violence under the Act.

Ratio of the Case

  1. Sec 2(f) of the DV Act defines domestic relationship as a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.
  1. A relationship in nature of marriage means a relationship that has some inherent, essential characteristics of marriage but is not legally recognized as one. Some of the key differences between marriage and a relationship in nature of marriage are that marriage continues even when the parties are not sharing a household or even when there is a difference of opinion or marital unrest, being based on law but in the other category, the relationship comes to an end when one of the parties determines that he/she does not want to be a part of it anymore. In a relationship in the nature of marriage, the party asserting the existence needs to positively prove the existence by identifying characteristics.
  1. Unlike many other countries, live-in relationships have not been socially accepted in India but in Lata Singh v. State of U.P. (2006), it was observed that a live-in relationship between two consenting adults of heterosexual sex is not an offence though may be considered immoral. Also to provide a remedy in civil law for the women aggrieved in this relationship and to prevent domestic violence, for the first time, DV Act was enacted to cover relationships like the ones in the nature of marriage, by consanguinity, etc.
  1. To examine whether a relationship is of the category-a relationship in the nature of marriage is a question of fact and degree and for that, all facets of the interpersonal relation need to be examined. No individual factor can be isolated as there is endless scope for variation in human attitudes and there can be a variety of combinations of factors to be taken into consideration. 
  1. Some guidelines (not exhaustive) were laid down to determine whether a live-in relationship falls within the category: –  
  • Duration of period of relationship
  • Shared household- Defined in Section 2(s) of the DV Act
  • Having/planning children- A very strong indicator
  • Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements Supporting each other, or any one of them
  • Sexual relationship- Not just for pleasure but for an emotional and intimate relationship
  • Socialization in public- Holding out to the public and socialising with friends and families.
  • Intention and conduct of the parties- Common intention of the parties as to what their relationship is to be
  • Domestic arrangements entrusting the responsibility- Women to run home and do household chores
  1. In the present case, the appellant was aware of the marriage of respondent, hence were living in an adulterous, bigamous relationship, hence they can’t enter into a legal marriage or have a relationship in the nature of marriage. They had no intention to rear kids (3 abortions). No material was adduced to show that they projected themselves as husband-wife in public, or that there were a pooling of resources or financial arrangement between them, or even that they had mutual support and companionship. No evidence that the respondent caused any physical, sexual abuse or endangered her except that of avoiding her without providing maintenance.

Decision of the Court

Since the appellant knew of the respondent’s marriage makes her his mistress and a mistress cannot maintain a relationship in the nature of marriage because such a relationship will not have exclusivity and will not be monogamous in character. If their relationship is to be held as in the nature of marriage then it would be an injustice to the legally wedded wife and their children (they have a cause of action against her for alienating the affection and companionship of parent/husband being an intentional tort). Hence, any conduct, act or omission of the respondent towards the appellant would not amount to domestic violence under Section 3 of the DV Act.

Judgment by the High Court was upheld and the appeal was dismissed.

This case analysis is done by Munmun Kaur, a Law student at Law Centre-I, Faculty of Law, Delhi University.

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