December 4, 2022

Case Law- Legal Indicators to recognize live-in-relationship in India

Indra Sarma v. V.K.V.Sarma (2013)

Indian supreme court always has been a voice of progressive thought in India. Through many of its judgments, the court paved the way to modern way of life and ideology. It was further confirmed when the court legalized ‘live-in-relationship’ in India in the judgment of ‘Indra Sarma v. V.K.V.Sarma (2013)’and said that, Live-in or marriage like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country. The decision to marry or not to marry or to have a heterosexual relationship is intensely personal.

What were the facts?

  • Appellant (female partner) and respondent (Male Partner) were working together in a private company.
  • The Respondent, who was working as a Personal Officer of the Company, was a married person having two children and the appellant, aged 33 years, was unmarried. Constant contacts between them developed intimacy and in the year 1992, appellant left the job from the above-mentioned Company and started living with the respondent in a shared household.
  • Appellants family members, including her father, brother and sister, and also the wife of the respondent, opposed that live-in-relationship.
  • Appellant maintained the stand that the respondent, in fact, started a business in her name and that they were earning from that business.
  • After some time, the respondent shifted the business to his residence and continued the business with the help of his son, thereby depriving her right of working and earning.
  • Appellant has also stated that both of them lived together in a shared household and, due to their relationship, appellant became pregnant on three occasions, though all resulted in abortion. Respondent, it was alleged, used to force the appellant to take contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancy.
  • Further, it was also stated that the respondent took a sum of Rs.1,00,000/- from the appellant stating that he would buy a land in her name, but the same was not done. Respondent also took money from the appellant to start a beauty parlour for his wife.
  • Appellant also alleged that, during the year 2006, respondent took a loan of Rs.2,50,000/- from her and had not returned.
  • The respondent, all along, was harassing the appellant by not exposing her as his wife publicly, or permitting to suffix his name after the name of the appellant.
  • He never used to take her anywhere, either to the houses of relatives or friends or functions. His family constantly opposed their live-in relationship and ultimately forced him to leave the company of the appellant and it was alleged that he left the company of the appellant without maintaining her.

Criminal petition by Female Partner

Due to above mentioned circumstances, appellant then preferred criminal miscellaneous petition under Section 12 of the DV Act before the III Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Bangalore, seeking the following reliefs:

1) Pass a Protection Order under Section 18 of the DV Act prohibiting the respondent from committing any act of domestic violence against the appellant and her relatives, and further prohibiting the respondent from alienating the assets both moveable and immoveable properties owned by the respondent;

2) Pass a residence order under Section 19 of the DV Act and direct the respondent to provide for an independent residence as being provided by the respondent or in the alternative a joint residence along with the respondent where he is residing presently and for the maintenance of Rs. 25,000/- per month regularly as being provided earlier or in the alternative to pay the permanent maintenance charges at the rate of Rs. 25,000/- per month for the rest of the life;

3) Pass a monetary order under Section 20 of the DV Act directing the respondent to pay a sum of Rs. 75,000/- towards the operation, pre and post-operative medication, tests etc. and follow up treatments;

4) Pass a 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; and

5) Pass an ex-parte interim order under Section 23 of the DV Act directing the respondent to pay Rs. 75,000/- towards the medical expenses and pay the maintenance charges @ Rs. 25,000/- per month as being paid by the respondent earlier.

Detailed Objections filed by the Respondent

Respondent stated that,

  • it was on sympathetical grounds that he gave shelter to her in a separate house after noticing the fact that she was abandoned by her parents and relatives, especially after the demise of her father.
  • She had also few litigations against her sister for her father’s property and she had approached the respondent for moral as well as monetary support since they were working together in a Company.
  • The respondent has admitted that he had cohabited with the appellant since 1993. The fact that he was married and had two children was known to the appellant. Pregnancy of the appellant was terminated with her as well as her brothers consent since she was not maintaining good health.
  • The respondent had also spent large amounts for her medical treatment and the allegation that he had taken money from the appellant was denied.
  • It was for getting further amounts and to tarnish the image of the respondent, the application was preferred under the DV Act.

Findings by the Magistrate

The learned Magistrate found proof that the parties had lived together for a considerable period of time, for about 18 years, and then the respondent left the company of the appellant without maintaining her. Learned Magistrate took the view that the plea of domestic violence had been established, due to the non-maintenance of the appellant and passed the order directing the respondent to pay an amount of Rs. 18,000/- per month towards maintenance.

The respondent filed the appeal before sessions court but court maintained the order of below court. Respondent then filed the appeal to High court, and it was contended before the High Court that the appellant was aware of the fact that the respondent was a married person having two children, yet she developed a relationship, in spite of the opposition raised by the wife of the respondent and also by the appellants parents. Reliance was also placed on the judgment of this Court in D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal (2010) 10 SCC 469 and submitted that the tests laid down in Velusamy case (supra) had not been satisfied.

The High Court held that the relationship between the parties would not fall within the ambit of relationship in the nature of marriage and the tests laid down in Velusamy case (supra) have not been satisfied. Consequently, the High Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order passed by the Courts below. Aggrieved by the same, Present appeal has been filed before the supreme court.

The question before the court

The question before the court was that,

“Whether the non-maintenance in a broken live-in-relationship, will amount to domestic violence within the definition of Section 3 of the DV Act, enabling the appellant to seek one or more reliefs provided under Section 12 of the DV Act.”

Provisions of DV Act

Chapter IV is the heart and soul of the DV Act, which provides various reliefs to a woman who has or has been in domestic relationship with any adult male person and seeks one or more reliefs provided under the Act.

Section 3- Definition of Domestic Violence

Section 3 of DV Act, defines the domestic violence,

Definition of domestic violence. – For the purposes of this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it-

(a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or

(b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or

(c) has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or

(d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.

Section 12- Reliefs

The Magistrate, while entertaining an application from an aggrieved person under Section 12 of the DV Act, can grant the following reliefs:

1) Payment of compensation or damages

2) Protection order against further violence;

3) Resident Order-

  • restraining the respondent from dispossessing the aggrieved person from the shared household,
  • directing the respondent to remove himself from the shared household;
  • restraining the respondent or any of his relatives from entering any portion of the shared household in which the aggrieved person resides;
  • restraining the respondent from alienating or disposing off the shared household or encumbering the same;
  • directing the respondent to secure same level of alternate accommodation for the aggrieved person as enjoyed by her in the shared household or to pay rent for the same, if the circumstances so require.

An aggrieved person, while filing an application under Section 12(1) of the DV Act, is also entitled, under Section 20 of the DV Act, to get monetary reliefs to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as a result of the domestic violence.

First Question- Whether the appellant was involved in a domestic relationship with the respondent?

Section 2(f) of DV Act, defines the expression domestic relationship as follows:

2(f). Domestic relationship means 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.

Difference between ‘Marriage’ and ‘Live-in-relationship’

The court noted that the present case is related to third category ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ and further made distinction between ‘marriage’ and ‘live-in-relationship’ in the words that,

“Relationship of marriage continues, notwithstanding the fact that there are differences of opinions, marital unrest etc., even if they are not sharing a shared household, being based on law.

But live-in-relationship is purely an arrangement between the parties unlike, a legal marriage. Once a party to a live-in- relationship determines that he/she does not wish to live in such a relationship, that relationship comes to an end.

Further, in a relationship in the nature of marriage, the party asserting the existence of the relationship, at any stage or at any point of time, must positively prove the existence of the identifying characteristics of that relationship, since the legislature has used the expression ‘in the nature of’.

The case of Lata Singh v. State of U.P (2006)

The court referred the case of Lata Singh v. State of U.P. [AIR 2006 SC 2522] where it was observed that a live-in relationship between two consenting adults of heterosexual sex does not amount to any offence even though it may be perceived as immoral. However, in order to provide a remedy in Civil Law for protection of women, from being victims of such relationship, and to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence in the society, first time in India, the DV Act has been enacted to cover the couple having relationship in the nature of marriage, persons related by consanguinity, marriages etc.

Guidelines to recognize live-in-relationship

The court laid down some guidelines for testing under what circumstances, a live-in relationship will fall within the expression relationship in the nature of marriage under Section 2(f) of the DV Act. The court also clarified that the guidelines, are not exhaustive, but will give some insight to such relationships.

1) Duration of period of relationship- Section 2(f) of the DV Act has used the expression at any point of time, which means a reasonable period of time to maintain and continue a relationship which may vary from case to case, depending upon the fact situation.

(2) Shared household-

(3) Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements Supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so as to have a long standing relationship, may be a guiding factor.

(4) Domestic Arrangements Entrusting the responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or up keeping the house, etc. is an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.

(5) Sexual Relationship Marriage like relationship refers to sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for emotional and intimate relationship, for procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring etc.

(6) Children Having children is a strong indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage. Parties, therefore, intend to have a long standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting them is also a strong indication.

(7) Socialization in Public Holding out to the public and socializing with friends, relations and others, as if they are husband and wife is a strong circumstance to hold the relationship is in the nature of marriage.

(8) Intention and conduct of the parties Common intention of parties as to what their relationship is to be and to involve, and as to their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.

The decision

The court tested the case on the parameter laid down above and noted that the appellant was not ignorant of the fact that the respondent was a married person with wife and two children, hence, was party to an adulterous and bigamous relationship. Parties never entertained any intention to rear children and on three occasions the pregnancy was terminated.

No evidence of socialization in public has been produced. There is nothing to show that there was pooling of resources or financial arrangements between them. Further, it was also submitted that the respondent never permitted to suffix his name after the name of the appellant.

And concluded that,

“We are, therefore, of the view that the appellant, having been fully aware of the fact that the respondent was a married person, could not have entered into a live-in relationship in the nature of marriage. All live-in- relationships are not relationships in the nature of marriage.

We are conscious of the fact that if any direction is given to the respondent to pay maintenance or monetary consideration to the appellant, that would be at the cost of the legally wedded wife and children of the respondent, especially when they had opposed that relationship and have a cause of action against the appellant for alienating the companionship and affection of the husband/parent which is an intentional tort.”

Reference

Indra Sarma vs V.K.V.Sarma (2013)