Long relationship = marriage? SC declines to examine

Long relationship = marriage? SC declines to examine

The Supreme Court. PTI file photo

The Supreme Court has declined to examine if a man's consensual relationship with a woman should be treated as de facto marriage and if he should be fastened with civil liabilities like maintenance for long cohabitation.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran preferred not to give any detailed judgement on the legal issues framed earlier by a separate bench of Justices A K Goel (since retired) and S Abdul Nazeer.

The previous bench had on July 2, 2018, framed these critical questions arising out of a Bengaluru man's plea to quash rape and cheating charges levelled against him by a woman as he claimed his relationship with her was consensual.

The bench had then in a detailed order noted that the court has come across several cases where a man cannot be held criminally liable for rape after being in a relationship with a woman. But the long period of cohabitation could entail certain liabilities like in a marriage, it said.

The court had then stayed the criminal proceedings initiated against petitioner Aloka Kumar. It had appointed senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi as amicus curiae and asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to depute a law officer to assist in the matter.

“Whether, on account of long cohabitation, even if the relationship is held to be consensual and the petitioner is not held liable for the offence alleged, the petitioner can be fastened the civil liability treating the relationship to be de facto marriage in view of long cohabitation,” the bench had said.

“This interpretation may have to be considered so that a girl is not subjected to any exploitation and is not rendered remediless even if a criminal offence is not made out,” the court had said.

It had also cited to an article published in 2012 wherein former SC judge A K Ganguly has stressed the need to remove the ambiguity over live-in relationships.

The petitioner, a resident of Bengaluru north taluk, challenged the Karnataka High Court's judgement of January 31, 2018, which had declined his plea to quash the 2016 complaint lodged against him by the girl's mother.

He claimed the girl, who was above 18 years of age, entered into relationship on her own.

According to the victim's mother, Kumar was in love with her daughter for the last six years. He promised to marry her but subsequently refused, forcing her daughter to attempt suicide on March 23, 2016. The girl in her statement to police said she cooperated with the accused under the misconception that he would marry her.

In a recent order, the court dismissed the plea of Kumar, making him face trial for rape and cheating. It, however, quashed the same charges against his father, bother and others.