SC lays down parameters for live-in partners maintenance

A woman in a live-in relationship is not entitled to maintenance unless she fulfils certain parameters, the Supreme Court held on Thursday while observing that merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a domestic relationship.

A bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and T S Thakur said that in order to get maintenance, a woman, even if not married, has to fulfil the following four requirements:

(1) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses, (2) they must be of legal age to marry, (3) they must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage including being unmarried, (4) they must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.

“In our opinion, not all live-in relationships will amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of the Act of 2005 (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act). To get such benefits the conditions mentioned by us above must be satisfied and this has to be proved by evidence.

“If a man has a ‘keep’ whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and or as a servant, it would not in our opinion be a relationship in the nature of marriage,” the court said.

“No doubt the view we are taking would exclude many women who have had a live-in relationship from the benefit of the 2005 Act (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act) but then it is not for this court to legislate or amend the law.

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Parliament has used the expression ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ and not ‘live-in relationship’. The court in the garb of interpretation cannot change the language of the statute,” the bench observed.

The apex court passed the judgement while setting aside the concurrent orders passed by a matrimonial court and the Madras High Court awarding Rs 500 maintenance to D Patchaiammal who claimed to have married the appellant D Velusamy.

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