The major rulings by the Supreme Court and High Courts of India in the recent past and the developments and changes in the legal arena impacting the Indian citizens.
Right of Adult Couple to Live Together without Marriage: SC
In a landmark judgment with far reaching consequences, the Supreme Court on May 6, 2018 in Nandkumar & Anr v The State of Kerala & Ors in Criminal Appeal No. 597 of 2018 arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 4488 of 2017 held that an adult couple has a right to live together without marriage. They cannot be stopped from exercising their right by anyone. The decision came while asserting that a 20year-old Kerala woman, whose marriage had been annulled, could choose whom she wanted to live with.
The Apex Court held that, "It would not be out of place to mention that 'livein relationship' is now recognised by the Legislature itself and they had found its place under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005." The Supreme Court recently set aside a Kerala High Court order that entrusted custody of a major girl to her father, observing that she has freedom of choice as to with whom she wants to live. This landmark judgment was very rightly welcomed widely in the legal circles and legal fraternity!
The observations came while the Apex Court was hearing a plea filed by one Nanda Kumar against a Kerala High Court order annulling his marriage with Thushara on the ground that he had not attained the legal age of marriage. It must be noted here that Prohibition of Child Marriage Act states the age of 18 for girls and 21 for boys for marriage. Nanda Kumar who had approached the court turned 21 on May 30 in 2018.
We thus see here that the girl Thushara had eloped with a boy Nanda Kumar who was not of marriageable age (21), though was of major age. The father of the girl filed a habeas corpus plea, upon which the Kerala High Court took note of the age of the boy. It also observed that there was no evidence to show that a valid marriage was solemnized between the parties and that Marriage certificate issued by the local authority was also not produced. The Kerala High Court then entrusted custody of Thushara to her father after noting that she was not Nanda Kumar's "lawfully wedded" wife.
Be it noted, the boy Nanda Kumar promptly approached the Supreme Court contending that since the girl is admittedly a minor, she has the right to live wherever she wants to or move as per her choice and the High Court could not have entrusted the girl to her father. The Bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan of the Supreme Court agreed with these contentions made. The Bench then observed that the marriage is not a void marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, and, at the most, the marriage would be a voidable marriage.
The court said that adults were entitled to make their choices.