This is awesome judgment from Hon’ble Supreme Court that reaffirmed that When there is no relationship in the nature of marriage, no DV can apply.
Ms. Indra Sarma, an unmarried woman, left her job and began a “live-in” relationship with Mr. V.K.V. Sarma for a period as long as 18 years, despite knowing that he was married. Mr. Sarma abandoned Ms. Sarma in a state where she could not maintain herself. Under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, failure to maintain a woman involved in a “domestic relationship” amounts to “domestic violence.” Two lower courts held that Mr. V.K.V. committed domestic violence by not maintaining Ms. Sarma, and directed Mr. Sarma to pay a maintenance amount of Rs.18,000 per month. Thereafter, on appeal, the High Court of Karnataka set aside the orders of the lower courts on the ground that Ms. Sarma was aware that Mr. Sarma was married and thus her relationship with him would fall outside the protected ambit of “relationship in the nature of marriage” under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. On further appeal, the Supreme Court, while affirming the High Court’s order, created an exception to the general rule. The Supreme Court clarified that a woman who begins to live with a man who is already married to someone else, without knowing that he is married, will still be considered to be in a “domestic relationship” under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; thus, the man’s failure to maintain her will amount to “domestic violence” within the meaning of the Act and she will be eligible to claim reliefs such as maintenance and compensation. This case is important because it established for the first time such an exception and calls for legislative action to protect women like Ms. Sarma whose contributions in a joint household are often overlooked.
Guidelines issues in the Judgment
55. We may, on the basis of above discussion cull out some guidelines for testing under what circumstances, a live-in relationship will fall within the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage” under Section 2(f) of the DV Act. The guidelines, of course, are not exhaustive, but will definitely give some insight to such relationships.
1) Duration of period of relationship Section 2(f) of the DV Act has used the expression “at any point of time”, which means a reasonable period of time to maintain and continue a relationship which may vary from case to case, depending upon the fact situation.
(2) Shared household The expression has been defined under Section 2(s) of the DV Act and, hence, need no further elaboration.
(3) Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements Supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so as to have a long standing relationship, may be a guiding factor.
(4) Domestic Arrangements Entrusting the responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or upkeeping the house, etc. is an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.
(5) Sexual Relationship Marriage like relationship refers to sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for emotional and intimate relationship, for procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring etc.
(6) Children Having children is a strong indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage. Parties, therefore, intend to have a long standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting them is also a strong indication.
(7) Socialization in Public Holding out to the public and socializing with friends, relations and others, as if they are husband and wife is a strong circumstance to hold the relationship is in the nature of marriage.
(8) Intention and conduct of the parties Common intention of parties as to what their relationship is to be and to involve, and as to their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.
Indra Sarma vs V.K.V.Sarma on 26 November, 2013
Citations: [AIR 2014 SC 309], [2014(6) SCC (Crl) 593], [2013(4) K.L.T. 763], [Manu/SC/1230/2013], [(2013) 15 SCC 755], [2014-1 LW.(Crl.) 129],
Indiankanoon.org or Casemine link: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/192421140/
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