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SC to examine whether live-in relationship can be considered 'de facto' marriage, says civil liability on male partners after break-up

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine whether civil liability can be fastened on a man who walked out of a promise to marry a woman after long cohabitation and a consensual sexual relationship, by treating such a relationship as a "de-facto" marriage.

Observing that even in cases that rape is not made out when such a relationship results in a break-up, the woman should not be rendered "remediless" and subjected to any kind of exploitation. This concern was observed even when a criminal case is not made out against the man.

 SC to examine whether live-in relationship can be considered de facto marriage, says civil liability on male partners after break-up

Representational image. Reuters

The matter came up before a bench of Justices AK Goel and S Abdul Nazeer when it was hearing a petition of a man challenging the order of the trial court and the high court in a case of rape against him in Karnataka.

The apex court issued a notice to Attorney-General KK Venugopal and requested him to depute an Additional Solicitor-General to assist the court.

It also requested senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi to assist the court as amicus and posted the matter for hearing on 12 September.

Hindustan Times reported that after six years of relationship, the girl filed a rape case, alleging that she had sexual relations with the man when they were living together on the consideration of marriage and not by free consent, and that as a result, the act amounted to rape.

"Thus, she was induced for intercourse during the cohabitation on that consideration and not by free consent. The petitioner committed offence under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. With the trial court having taken cognisance, the petitioner approached the high court for quashing. The high court rejected the plea for the same," the apex court noted.

"This interpretation like in the case of the Domestic Violence Act, or Succession Act 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. Similar issues have been the subject matter of consideration in several decisions...," the bench said referring to other cases in which similar issues have been the subject matter of consideration in several decisions.

The apex court observed that a live-in relationship has not been statutorily recognised under any legislation or acknowledged as a facet of personal law, reported News18.

The court used an article published by former SC judge AK Ganguly in 2012 as a reference. In it, Ganguly highlighted the need to examine the ambiguity over live-in relationships and the relationships ‘in nature of marriages’.

In this article, the retired judge asked whether such relationships can find their place in personal laws in the country He had said they should also be examined with the prism of bigamy.

In addition, the court has not clarified what has to be the length of the relationship to treat it equivalent to the marriage in any of its judgments.

Ganguly had also underlined that Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) could be amended to provide for maintenance to the women in such relationships.

With inputs from PTI.

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Updated Date: Jul 03, 2018 15:21:13 IST