Long cohabitation is an alleged marriage: SC

The Supreme Court confirmed the "presumption" that a couple who lives together as husband and wife is legally married and that the wife can apply for support under Article 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Judges R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee commented that it was "fairly well established that the law presumes in favor of marriage and concubinage when a man and a woman have coexisted continuously for several years".

Citing previous rulings of the Supreme Court, the court cited that "a man who had been living with a woman for a long time and who may not have suffered the legal necessities of a valid marriage was to be obliged to pay the woman if he deserted her.

Legal gaps

"One should not allow the man to take advantage of legal loopholes enjoying the benefits of a de facto marriage without fulfilling his duties and obligations. Any other interpretation would lead the woman to vagrancy and misery, which the section 125 support provision aims to prevent, "the court said in a recent judgment.

The judgment was based on an appeal by a woman against a decision of the High Court of Karnataka in June 2009. The High Court overturned a family court order, ordering the man with whom she had been living since 1998. to have two children to pay. Their relationship had been celebrated in a temple. He had then abandoned the family.

The family court had ordered him to pay the woman 3000 and the children 2,500 a month. The court said that they were accepted as husband and wife by the company. However, the man appealed to the High Court, which stated that there was no evidence that she was his legally married wife.