Maintenance for an "Avarddha Stree" i.e.. Live-In-Partner
In Hindu law, a women is referred to Avrudha Stri only, if she is an exclusively kept mistress of her paramour was entitled to maintenance from the separate property of her paramour.1 If she was discarded, she was not entitled to maintenance, but if she had stayed with her paramour till his death and connection had become permanent then even the estate of that Hindu in the hands of his heirs was liable for her maintenance. However, the concubine, lost her right of maintenance on her becoming unchaste.
In a landmark case titled as Nagabhai v. Monghi Bai,2 the Privy Council held that a women is considered a concubine, if she is an exclusively kept mistress of her paramour. Abandoning the wife for no fault of her own was punishable by the king.3
With changing social codes and a new-found sexual freedom, Indian society is walking up to the reality of relationship that are not defined under the "pious" institution of marriage. Thus live-in-relationship have become a reality to reckon with. National Commission for Women's view point on "Live-in-Relationship.
In June 2008, the National Commission for Women stated that the live-in female partner should be entitled to maintenance if her man deserts her. Pointing to the need for broad-basing the definition of "wife" in the section, NCW officials said there have been many cases where the man led the women to believe that he was unmarried or was divorced or widowed and went through the formalities required by the Hindu Marriage Act or the custom governing him. NCW chairperson Girija Vyas said, "Even if the marriage is not registered, if the woman can provide proof of a long term relationship, her claim will stand,"
Judicial Approach- Maintenance to Live-In-Relationship
In a first kind of a judgment under Domestic Violence Act, a Mumbai Local court has directed a city based business man to shell out a monthly maintenance of Rs.10,000/-to a bar singer whom he deserted after a live-in relationship.
Earlier the Honorable Apex Court ruled that that if a man and woman are involved in a live-in relationship for a long period, they will be treated as a married couple and their child would be called legitimate.
Recently, Honorable Supreme Court in its verdict delivered on 21.10.2010, observed that a women in a live-in relationship is not entitled to maintenance unless she fulfills certain parameters and merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a domestic relationship. In order to get maintenance, a women, even if not married, has to fulfill certain requirements.
Critical Analysis -Right to maintenance for an Avrudha Stri i.e. Live-in-Partner:
Live-in-relationship is a pure form of high-tech adultery. Unlike Marriage system, it is very fragile and it can be dissolved at any moment. It can not build safe and secured society. It is formed merely on the pillars of individualism, money and fashionable life style. It is an alternative system for marriage, usually practiced in western countries. Now such a practice is spreading in India, like AIDS. Children are the ultimate sufferers when the spouses segregate each other. This leaves them in a vulnerable situation, socially as well as emotionally, if the relationship sours. When the relationship breaks, the female partner has no legal benefits accruing to her in terms of maintenance, alimony, share in property or child maintenance, all of which the wife has.
For some people, the belief that living together before marriage is a useful way "to find out whether you really get along, and thus avoid a bad marriage and an eventful divorce. But this is not true because those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage. This is just like living together before marriage is akin taking a car for test drive. Except that now, you will also have to pay for any damages. The recent verdict of Hon'ble Supreme Court and proposed changes in the law against domestic violence promises equal benefits to women who are in live-in-relationship, but it could be misused. Certainly, the intention of law to help thousands of financially dependant abandoned women. So while this law may be "revolutionary", but it could cause harm to the legal wife. It is also apprehended that it may encourage men to stray and will overall encourage live-in-relationships as it gives a legal stamp of approval to the whole thing. On the other side, the new proposed law may force men to think twice before committing themselves to a long term "live-in-relationship" if they have to support the woman and children and other financial commitment involved. Approving such a law and making "live-in-relationship" a legal one, may work as a double edged weapon. It can't be brushed aside that society is formed with traditions and customs, which are foundational pillars. A society ruins when men ignores ethics and women ignore traditions.
BY CHARAN DASS
1. This gave statutory recognition by the Hindu Married Woman's Right to
Separate residence and Maintenance Act, 1946
2. AIR,1926, PC 73
3. Maharaja Nader Vs.Ammal AIR 1986 Mad 346
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