The Supreme Court on Thursday said a woman in a live-in relationship with a married man was not entitled to claim maintenance if the alliance failed.
A judgment by a bench of Justices Markandey Katju and T S Thakur said: “If a man has a ‘keep’ whom he maintains financially for sexual purpose and/or as a servant, it would not be a relationship in the nature of marriage.’’ The word “keep” could be equated with “mistress” or “concubine” and was prevalent several years back in a feudal milieu where men were perceived to hold chauvinist mindsets.
While overruling the orders of the Madras High Court and the Coimbatore Family Court, the Bench set guidelines to define marriage. The Bench said that a woman, even if not married, has to fulfil the following four requirements for maintenance.
Her relationship has to be where the couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses. They must be of a legal age to marry. They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried. And finally, 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),” the Bench 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. 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.
Both the lower courts had upheld a Tamil Nadu matrimonial court’s order to provide maintenance of Rs 500 to D Patchaiammal who claimed to have married D Velusamy, a schoolteacher. The couple were living together since September 14, 1986.
Velusamy had challenged the Madras High Court’s order on the ground that he was already married to Laxmi, and Patchaiammal was not married to him though he lived with her for some time.