Mumbai: In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court recently held that a woman in a live-in relationship is entitled to maintenance — akin to a wife — if she shares her finances and also household chores with the man.
A single-judge bench of Justice Bharati Dangre pronounced this ruling last week while deciding a plea moved by a Hindu woman, seeking maintenance from a Muslim man, whom she claimed was her husband. The woman – Jayashri — was earlier married to another man and had two sons from him. However, the man had absconded. Jayashri was into a vegetable vending business and Samshuddin’s shop was just next to hers.
After a few years, Jayashri moved in to Samshuddin’s house along with her children in 1998. The couple started residing as husband and wife and even Jayashri’s children addressed Samshuddin as father. The couple even pooled their finances and shared the household expenses. The couple, though living together without getting married, told everyone that they were husband and wife.
Having resided together for over 15 years, things soured between the couple and they parted ways. However, given her ‘destituteness’ Jayashri dragged Samshuddin to court, seeking maintenance. Her prayer was considered by a Magistrate’s Court which directed Samshuddin to pay Rs 2000 per month towards maintenance, but the orders were reversed by a Sessions Court. The court held that the live-in relationship of a couple cannot be construed as a relationship in ‘nature of marriage.’
Having dealt with the evidence on record and also facts of the case, Justice Dangre noted, “It must be noted that the applicant (Jayashri) never claimed that she married Samshuddin. It is seen that the duo projected themselves to the world as husband and wife and not only that there was an economic exchange between them, they also carried out business activities together. She was helped by Samshuddin in raising her children, who referred him as father.”
“The respondent (Samshuddin) has made an attempt to doubt her character but this Court is of the opinion that merely throwing doubt on the character of a woman like Jayashri would not make a man escape the liability, specifically when he has shared the same household with her and treated her like his wife for a long period,” Justice Dangre ruled. Accordingly, Justice Dangre directed Samshuddin to pay a monthly amount of Rs 4000 to Jayashri for her maintenance.