‘Live-in’ can get main­te­nance

Es­pe­cially if cou­ple pool fi­nances and share house­hold chores

The Free Press Journal - - FRONT PAGE - LE­GAL RE­PORTER /

In a sig­nif­i­cant rul­ing, the Bom­bay High Court re­cently held that a woman in a livein re­la­tion­ship is en­ti­tled to main­te­nance -- akin to a wife -- if she shares her fi­nances and also house­hold chores with the man.

A sin­gle-judge bench of Jus­tice Bharati Dan­gre pro­nounced this rul­ing last week while de­cid­ing a plea moved by a Hindu woman, seek­ing main­te­nance from a Mus­lim man, whom she claimed was her hus­band.

The woman – Jayashri -was ear­lier mar­ried to an­other man and had two sons from him. How­ever, the man had ab­sconded. Jayashri was into a veg­etable vend­ing busi­ness and Samshud­din’s shop was just next to hers.

Af­ter a few years, Jayashri moved in to Samshud­din’s house along with her chil­dren in 1998. The cou­ple started re­sid­ing as hus­band and wife and even Jayashri’s chil­dren ad­dressed Samshud­din as fa­ther. The cou­ple even pooled their fi­nances and shared the house­hold ex­penses. The cou­ple, though liv­ing to­gether with­out get­ting mar­ried, told ev­ery­one that they were hus­band and wife.

Hav­ing resided to­gether for over 15 years, things soured be­tween the cou­ple and they parted ways. How­ever, given her ‘des­ti­tute­ness’ Jayashri dragged Samshud­din to court, seek­ing main­te­nance. Her prayer was con­sid­ered by a Mag­is­trate’s Court which di­rected Samshud­din to pay Rs 2000 per month to­wards main­te­nance, but the or­ders were re­versed by a Ses­sions Court. The court held that the live-in re­la­tion­ship of a cou­ple can­not be con­strued as a re­la­tion­ship in ‘na­ture of mar­riage.’

Hav­ing dealt with the ev­i­dence on record and also facts of the case, Jus­tice Dan­gre noted, “It must be noted that the ap­pli­cant (Jayashri) never claimed that she mar­ried Samshud­din. It is seen that the duo pro­jected them­selves to the world as hus­band and wife and not only that there was an eco­nomic ex­change be­tween them, they also car­ried out busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties to­gether. She was helped by Samshud­din in rais­ing her chil­dren, who re­ferred him as fa­ther.”

“The re­spon­dent (Samshud­din) has made an at­tempt to doubt her char­ac­ter but this Court is of the opin­ion that merely throw­ing doubt on the char­ac­ter of a woman like Jayashri would not make a man es­cape the li­a­bil­ity, specif­i­cally when he has shared the same house­hold with her and treated her like his wife for a long pe­riod,” Jus­tice Dan­gre ruled.

Ac­cord­ingly, Jus­tice Dan­gre di­rected Samshud­din to pay a monthly amount of Rs 4000 to Jayashri for her main­te­nance.

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