Supreme Court has recently ruled that couple living-in together will be presumed as legally married and consequently the woman would be eligible to inherit the property of her partner after his death.
The ruling was passed by the bench of Justice MY Eqbal and Justice Amitava Roy in a property dispute. The bench stated that continuous cohabitation of a couple would raise the presumption of a valid marriage and that it would be for the opposite party to prove that they were not legally married.
“It is well settled that the law presumes in favor 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,” said that bench.
The dispute was related to a family where members claimed 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 the lady was not entitled to inherit the property of the old man after his death. They contended that the lady was only the mistress to their grandfather.
Although the woman failed to prove that she was legally wedded to the old man, the court still presumed that she was the legal wife as the family members admitted that she had a relationship with their grandfather.
The bench said, “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 further said, “Infact of the case, there is a strong presumption in favor of the validity of a marriage and the legitimacy of its child for the reason that the relationship is recognized by all persons concerned.”
Last year a bench of Justice BS Chauhan and J Chelameswar had ruled that the children borne out of a prolonged live-in relationship will also be considered as legal.
In 2013, the top court had observed that live-in relationship is neither a crime nor a sin and asked the Parliament to frame law for protection of women in such relationship and children born out of it.