The Supreme Court has held that if a man and a woman live together and co-habit for a long spell as husband and wife, there is a presumption of a valid marriage between the two.
A bench, headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat, said that children born out of such a relationship will be legitimate. “Law leans in favour of legitimacy and frowns upon bastardy,” it said.
Upholding the property rights of a woman, who was born to a live-in couple, the court added that although the presumption of marriage is rebuttable, heavy burden lies on the person who seeks to challenge the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage took place. Under such circumstances the court cannot ignore the evidence presented before it to weaken the presumption.
Reversing a judgment of Madhya Pradesh High Court, the bench restored a lower court’s order that had in 1985 acknowledged a woman, Loli, as the wife of a man, Radhika Singh, with whom she lived for several years and gave birth to five daughters and a son.
The trial court had then dismissed the case of the petitioners who had sought to abolish the property rights of Loli on the ground that she was not married but lived as a mistress of Radhika. The petitioner before the trial court was Radhika’s sister-in-law. She sought her rights over the entire property because her husband was the only legally married brother out of the three siblings. According to her, Loli started living with Radhika while her first husband was alive and, therefore, the presumption of valid marriage was not there.
The trial court’s order was set aside by the appellate court and the latter’s findings were reinforced by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Challenging the High Court’s order, Loli’s daughter Tulsa contended before the Supreme Court that there was no evidence to disbelieve her mother’s relationship with Radhika.