In the absence of evidence like wedding invitation and photographs, the cohabitation of a man and woman for a long time could be taken as a valid proof of marriage, the Madras high court ruled.
The court’s Madurai bench, comprising Justices S Manikumar and CT Selvam, reversed the order of Tirunelveli family court judge, who declined to entertain an application for divorce, citing lack of evidence to prove that the couple was married. The matter will not go to the trial court for hearing.
The bench in its order said the views of the trial court “reflect a most presumptuous view on considerations which are matters for trial” and not to be decided at the preliminary stage of entertaining the divorce petition.
“Presumption of marriage may arise even on proof of prolonged cohabitation,” the judges observed.
The family court had rejected the divorce petition filed by the woman on the grounds that her marriage was not registered and even the wedding photos had not been produced.
However, the woman produced another photograph taken with her ‘husband’, which the lower court judge refused to accept. Besides, the wife had claimed that she had two children and was living with the man for 21 years under a settlement.
The trial court judge relied upon the settlement between the applicant and the man she called her husband, wherein it was stated that she would reside with him and attend to his needs through his life. The trial court judge concluded the settlement did not prove that the two were married.
Disagreeing with the trial court, the bench said such details could be discussed only during the trial and not at the preliminary stage of entertaining the divorce petition.