Live-in case splits SC bench | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Live-in case splits SC bench

Could a man involved in a long live-in relationship be convicted of deceiving the woman for making her believe that the two are married and cohabiting with her?

delhi Updated: Nov 30, 2010 00:10 IST
Bhadra Sinha

Could a man involved in a long live-in relationship be convicted of deceiving the woman for making her believe that the two are married and cohabiting with her?

A two-judge bench of Supreme Court was divided on this contentious issue. Justice Markandeya Katju heading the bench took the view that “what was morally wrong may not necessarily be illegal.”

He disagreed with Jharkhand High Court verdict convicting a man for throwing out his “live-in” partner after cohabiting with her for nine years and having two children.

He was held guilty of having sexual intercourse with the woman who wasn’t legally married to him but was made to believe that she is.

The only woman judge in SC, justice Gyan Sudha Mishra, however, dissented and noted that it amounted to deception. The man acted wrongly as he induced a woman to believe that she has been legally married to him and permitted him to cohabit with her. This, justice Mishra added, would amount to an offence under section 493 of IPC, attracting a jail term up to 10 years.

Justice Katju absolved the man in a separate order. He ruled that the woman was fully aware that the two were not married. “It is her own case that the man had assured her that he will marry her,” Justice Katju observed in his order.

Contrary to his observations, justice Mishra said even though the two had not tied nuptial knot in accordance with the Hindu Marriage Act, the evidence on record indicated the woman was under the belief she was legally married.

She based her verdict on various official documents, including the area voter list created during their live-in period. The list identified the two as a couple.

As the two judges on the bench gave differing verdicts, the matter was referred to Chief Justice SH Kapadia for having the issue examined by a larger bench.