NEW DELHI: Women involved in “frivolous, casual relationships of convenience” may not get any protection under the law.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has said live-in relationships should cover only those women who have been duped or forced into marriage by men whose spouses are still alive.
During a special meeting of the committee, which is looking into the Maharashtra government’s proposal to give sanctity to live-in relationships, the NCW concluded that “live-in” relationships should be redefined so that women in “relationships of convenience” cannot seek maintenance or any other relief under the law. The commission, at the same time, also wants the rights of the first wife to be strictly protected.
“In certain cases where the relationship is barely six months old and there is no commitment, the court can declare it null and void. Relationships of convenience should not be considered for relief,” said NCW chairperson Girija Vyas.
The NCW has recommended an amendment in section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) so that it can include “women living in relationships in nature of marriage“. At present, section 125 of the CrPc allows maintenance only to a legally-wedded first wife. The second wife’s rights are considered only if the first wife is dead or if she is divorced. However, the NCW wants this to be revised to include a “woman living with a person in a relationship in the nature of marriage who is unable to maintain herself”. Similar changes in all the relevant laws such as the Dowry Act and the Property Act to include the rights of a “live-in” partner have been sought.
“Our laws do not recognise the rights of a second wife if the first wife is alive. However, many women are duped or forced into marriage. Such women, who have gone through the formalities of marriage, whether publicly or secretly, live in society as someone’s wife and as a member of his family. Hence, they should have the right to maintenance and other property rights,” said supreme court advocate Meenakshi Lekhi, who is part of the NCW’s special committee.
According to Lekhi, the term “live-in” gives rise to negative interpretations. “The right to live together with a man does not give a woman the right to receive maintenance.”