Women in Live-in Relationship
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Bombay High Court on Friday ruled that a woman in a live-in relationship with a man for 15 years is entitled to maintenance if they share their finances and responsibility of household chores. This decision provides more rights to women in a society dominated by men.

Facts of the case

Woman Jayashri was married earlier and even had kids from that marriage. Her husband deserted her 5 years after their marriage. Jayashri was a vegetable seller business and her shop was right next to Shamshuddin’s shop. Two came close and after a few years, Jayashri moved in with Shamshuddin along with her children. Jayashri’s kid addressed Shamshuddin as father and they started living as a married couple. Couple pooled in their finances and shared the household expenses and chores. They introduced themselves as husband and wife in spite of not being formally married. After living together for 15 years, the relationship between the couple soured and they decided to go their separate ways. Jayashri citing her destituteness filed a maintenance petition against Shamshuddin in a magistrate court under the Domestic Violence Act. The magistrate directed Shamshuddin to pay two thousand rupees to Jayashri per month. On appeal to the Session’s Court, the said order was reversed and the Court held that the live-in relationship of a couple cannot be construed as a relationship in “nature of marriage.” This decision was appealed against in Bombay High Court.

The Decision of the Court

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Single Judge Bench of Justice Bharati Dangre after examining all the evidence on the record and keeping in mind the facts and circumstances of the case ruled that a woman living in a live-in relationship with a man for 15 years makes her eligible to claim maintenance from her partner. Shamshuddin’s lawyer in his arguments tried to question the character of Jayashri and said that merely living together under a shared household is not the only test determining whether the relationship between a couple is that of marriage. Justice Dangre said that “It must be noted that the applicant (Jayashri) never claimed that she was 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 a father.” Moreover, replying to respondent’s argument over the character of Jayashri Hon’ble judge said that “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 increased the maintenance from two thousand to four thousand and instructed Shamshuddin to pay the same to Jayashri every month.

Learning of the Case

From this case, we learn that a woman in a live-in relationship for 15 years is entitled to claim compensation provided they project themselves as a couple to the world and share economic duties of the household. Domestic Violence Act enacted in 2005 is a benevolent law for protecting women from violence and term abuse should be interpreted broadly to fulfil the purpose of the Act.

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