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Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN | Apr 24, 2014, 02.08 AM IST
The Supreme Court has said that if a man and woman "lived like husband and wife" for a long period and had children, the judiciary would presume that the two were married.
NEW DELHI: Giving an important clarification on live-in relationships, the Supreme Court has said that if a man and woman "lived like husband and wife" for a long period and had children, the judiciary would presume that the two were married.
A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and J Chelameswar on Monday issued the clarification on a petition filed by advocate Uday Gupta, who had questioned certain sweeping observations made by the Madras high court while dealing with the issue of live-in relationships. Importantly, the SC said children born out of prolonged live-in relationships could not be termed illegitimate.
Gupta had challenged the HC's observation that "a valid marriage does not necessarily mean that all the customary rights pertaining to the married couple are to be followed and subsequently solemnized".
His counsel, M R Calla, sought deletion of the HC's observations terming them as untenable in law. He apprehended that these remarks could demolish the very institution of marriage.
The bench went through the judgment and said the HC's observations could not be construed as a precedent for other cases and would be confined to the case in which these were made.
Justices Chauhan and Chelameswar said,"In fact, what the HC wanted to say is that if a man and woman are living together for a long time as husband and wife, though never married, there would a presumption of marriage and their children could not be called illegitimate."
In 2010, the apex court had in Madan Mohan Singh vs Rajni Kant case said, "The courts have consistently held that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years. However, such presumption can be rebutted by leading unimpeachable evidence."
The same year, the court had in another judgment hinted at the legitimacy of children born out of such relations. "It is evident that Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act intends to bring about social reforms, conferment of social status of legitimacy on a group of children, otherwise treated as illegitimate, as its prime object."
Section 16 of Hindu Mariage Act provides,"Notwithstanding that a marriage is null and void under Section 11, any child of such marriage who would have been legitimate if the marriage had been valid, shall be legitimate, whether such a child is born before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976, and whether or not a decree of nullity is granted in respect of the marriage under this Act and whether or not the marriage is held to be void otherwise than on a petition under this Act."