The Supreme Court’s verdict on right to maintenance of a woman in a live-in relationship on Friday snowballed into a controversy with additional solicitor general Indira Jaising taking strong exception to the use of word “keep” in it.
“How can the Supreme Court of India use the word keep in the 21st century against a woman?” Jaising asked a bench of Justices Markandey Katju and T. S. Thakur that delivered the verdict on Thursday.
The law ministry was consulting top law officers to decide if its intervention was required. “I am discussing the matter… Only after that I would be able to comment,” Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said.
The spat started with Justice Katju seeking her views on the judgment, as she was involved in drafting the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
An agitated Jaising said the use of expressions “keep” and “one night stand” in the judgment were “highly objectionable”. “I would like to move an application to get the remarks expunged. I do not want to appear before this court, I would like to withdraw myself,” she said.
As lawyers and litigants watched, Justice Katju, who wrote the judgment, asked Jaising to confine herself to the case before the court.
Justice Thakur asked her if “concubine” would have been more appropriate than “keep”. Jaising said her main objection was to the words “keep” and “one night stand”.
The SC had ruled that not all live-in relationships were covered under the Domestic Violence Act and a woman in such a relationship was entitled to maintenance only if she fulfilled certain parameters to be covered under the expression “in the nature of marriage” used in the act.
“If a man has a keep whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and or as a servant, it would not in our opinion be a relationship in the nature of marriage,” it had said.