The Supreme Court has clarified that children born out of a live-in relationship, where the man and woman lived together for a long time as husband and wife, could not be called illegitimate.
A bench of justices BS Chauhan and J Chelameshwar gave the clarification while deciding a plea filed by an advocate challenging a Madras High Court verdict making certain observations on live-in relationships.
Advocate Uday Gupta, who was not a party to the case, filed the plea saying the observations made by the High Court that "a valid marriage does not necessarily mean that all the customary rights pertaining to the married couple are to be followed and subsequently solemnised" are not legally tenable.
The apex court, however, disposed of the special leave petition saying it does not deem it necessary to consider the case further.
"We are of the view that such observations had been made in the facts of that case. In fact, what the learned judge (of high court) wanted to say is that if a man and woman are living together for a long time as husband and wife, though never married, there would be a presumption of marriage and their children could not be called to be illegitimate.
"Such a view stands fully fortified by a very large number of judgements," the bench said, referring to its 2010 verdict in Madan Mohan Singh and others versus Rajni Kant.
The apex court had noted: "The courts have consistently held that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years. However, such presumption can be rebutted by leading unimpeachable evidence."
The bench said the high court had made those observations in the facts of that case as the alleged marriage took place in 1994 and two children were born in 1996 and 1999.
"Therefore, the observations made by the high court in the said judgement are restricted to the facts of that case and do not lay down the law of universal application," it said.