‘Mistress in distress can’t invoke DV Act’
SC: Women Living In With Married Men Out Of Ambit
Dhananjay Mahapatra TNN
New Delhi: Check the man’s marital status before going in for a live-in partnership was the loud signal from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Domestic Violence Act could not be invoked by a woman in a live-in relationship with a married man, especially if she knew his marital status. A relationship between a woman and a married man could not be termed a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’, the basic requirement for an aggrieved woman in a live-in relationship to take recourse to DV Act for action against her ‘erring’ partner, the court said.
After giving this interpretation to live-in relationship between a married man and an unmarried woman, a bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose said if a married man walked out of such a relationship, the woman was not entitled to seek maintenance under DV Act. On the contrary, it warned, the deserted woman ran a risk of being sued for damages by the man’s wife and children for alienating them from the husband/father’s love and care.
However, the bench was aware of the social reality of married men walking out of live-in relationships. Finding that in such situations, poor and illiterate women suffered the most, the court appealed to Parliament to take remedial measures through appropriate legislation.
One Indra Sarma had a live-in relationship with V K V Sarma, already married with two children. The man moved in with her, started a business enterprise with her and after several years, went back to his family.
After the live-in relationship ended, Indra moved a Bangalore court demanding from him a house, a monthly maintenance of Rs 25,000, reimbursement of her medical bills and Rs 3.5 lakh in damages. The trial court found the two lived together for 18 years. Finding the woman aggrieved, the magistrate directed the man to pay Rs 18,000 per month towards her maintenance under DV Act. The sessions court upheld the trial court decision.
However, the Karnataka HC set aside the order saying their relationship did not fall within the ambit of “relationship in the nature of marriage”. Upholding the HC order, Justices Radhakrishnan and Ghose said, “We are of the view that the appellant (Indra Sarma) having been fully aware of the fact that respondent (V K V Sarma) was a married person, could not have entered into a live-in relationship in the nature of marriage.
“Appellant’s and respondent’s relationship is, therefore, not a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ because it has no inherent or essential characteristic of a marriage, but a relationship other than ‘in the nature of marriage’ and the appellant’s status is lower than the status of a wife and that relationship would not fall within the definition of ‘domestic relationship’ under Section 2(f) of the DV Act. Consequently, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent in connection with that type of relationship, would not amount to ‘domestic violence’ under Sec 3 of DV Act.”
However, the bench noticed the deficiency in law to address such relationships in which women, especially poor and illiterate, suffer the most when their partners — already married men — walk out.
The bench said, “We have, on facts, found that the appellant’s status was that of a mistress, who is in distress, a survivor of a live-in relationship which is of serious concern, especially when such persons are poor and illiterate, in the event of which vulnerability is more pronounced, which is a social reality. Children born out of such relationship also suffer most, which calls for bringing in remedial measures by Parliament...”
Despite the concern, the bench decided to go by the law.
Source::: The times of India, 29-11-2013,p.12, http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2013/11/29&PageLabel=12&EntityId=Ar01200&ViewMode=HTML