Punjab and Haryana High Court: While determining whether a live-in partner would be entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the Bench of Jaishree Thakur J. reiterated the holding of the Supreme Court in Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha, (2011) 1 SCC 141, that where partners live together as husband and wife, a presumption would arise in favour of a wedlock.
In the instant case, as alleged by the respondent, she began residing with the petitioner in 2008 and bore him twins in 2011. After a while she obtained a decree of divorce from her previous husband. Later on, it was revealed that the petitioner was married. The petitioner argued that without dealing with the question of a valid marriage between the parties, the Family Court awarded maintenance under Section 125 CrPC and that owing to the permanent alimony by her previous husband, she has adequate source of income to maintain herself.
The Court referred to the 2003 report of the Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, which recommended that the word ‘wife’ in Section 125 CrPC should be amended to include a woman who was living with the man like his wife for a reasonably long period. Applying the grounds laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, (2013) 15 SCC 755 as to when a live-in relationship would fall within the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage”, the Bench said that the fact that twins were born out of this relationship indicated the couple’s intent to give it some permanence and that can entitle the woman to claim interim maintenance.
The Court awarded a reduced sum of maintenance to the woman in order to tide over any immediate difficulty without interfering with the order of maintenance for children and directed that the Family Court seized of the matter will also have to see if respondent herein is able to maintain herself on account of the fact that she had been granted Rs 40 lakhs as permanent alimony from her earlier divorce proceedings. In case the respondent is not entitled to maintenance, necessary deductions are permitted from the amounts already paid. [Ajay Bhardwaj v. Jyotsna, 2016 SCC OnLine P&H 9707, decided on 23.11.2016]