Protection of Women in live in relationship from Domestic Violence
Is the protection available under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 limited to certain live –in relationships or all of them can be covered under the term “in the nature of marriage” as mentioned in the act?
The Domestic Violence Act 2005 is the only legislation to expressly recognize relationships other than marriage but uses the term‘relationships in the nature of marriage’ instead of ‘live-in relationship' implying, not all live-in relationships but only those in the nature of marriage shall be governed by this Act.
A clear distinction was made by the court in D. Veluswamy v D. Patchaiammal. The court said that a `relationship in the nature of marriage’ is akin to a common law marriage. Common law marriages require that though not being formally married:
(a) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.
(b) They must be of legal age to marry.
(c) They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried.
(d) They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.
But this judgement was criticized for excluding those women who live-in with an already married man, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
In Indra Sarma v VKV Sarma, the Court further laid down certain elements to be considered in answering the above question: Duration of relationship, shared household, pooling of resources and financial arrangement, Domestic Relationship, Sexual Relationship, Children, Socialization in Public, Intention and conduct of parties. Greater the number of elements present, greater is the indication that the live-in relationship is in the nature of marriage. Here the court held that since the woman knew that the man she was living with was already married, this cannot be regarded as a relationship in the nature of marriage. Also, in Malti v U.P., the Allahabad High Court held that a cook who lived with her master and had intimate relationship with him, cannot be compared to a wife.
However, it has been consistently held that where an unmarried man and woman are living together as a man and wife and there is continuous cohabitation; the law will presume, unless the contrary is proved, that they were living together in consequence of a valid marriage. Thus, where a woman is unable to prove her marriage for want of proof of ceremonies etc, she will get all the rights of a wife.
(2010) 10 SCC 469.
AIR 2014 SC 309.
Writ Petition (civil) No. 4572 of 2007.
A. Dinohamy v W.L.Balahamy AIR 1927 PC 185, Pyla Mutyalamma v Pyla Suri Dumedu (2011) 12 SCC 189, See also: recent Supreme Court judgement delivered on 13 April 2015 <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Couple-living-together-will-be-presumed-married-Supreme-Court-rules/articleshow/46901198.cms> last accessed 12 May 2015.
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