Indian Supreme Court: more power to live-in couples

NEW DELHI: If an unmarried couple is living together as husband and wife, then they would be presumed to be legally married and the woman would be eligible to inherit the property after death of her partner, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A bench of Justice MY Eqbal and Justice Amitava Roy said continuous cohabitation of a couple would raise the presumption of valid marriage and it would be for the opposite party to prove that they were not legally married.

“It is well settled that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a long time. However, the presumption can be rebutted by leading unimpeachable evidence. A heavy burden lies on a party who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin,” the bench said.

The Supreme Court has since 2010 consistently ruled in favour of couples living together as husband and wife, giving the woman the right of a wife.

The court passed the order in a property dispute where family members contested that their grandfather, who was living with a woman for 20 years after his wife’s death, was not legally wedded to the woman and she was not entitled to inherit the property after his death. They contended that she was their grandfather’s mistress.

Despite the woman failing to prove that she was legally wedded, the court presumed that she was the legal wife after family members admitted that his grandfather had a relationship with the woman who was living with them in the joint family.

“Where a man and woman are proved to have lived together as husband and wife, the law will presume, unless the contrary is clearly proved, that they were living together in consequence of a valid marriage, and not in a state of concubinage,” the bench said.

“In the fact of the case, there is strong presumption in favour of the validity of a marriage and the legitimacy of its child for the reason that the relationship is recognized by all persons concerned,” it said.

The court said continuous cohabitation as husband and wife and their treatment as such for a number of years might raise the presumption of marriage which could be rebutted only if there were circumstances which destroyed the presumption.

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Posted by on April 13, 2015. Filed under India,SOUTH-ASIA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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