Adult couple has the right to live together without marriage: SC

May 7, 2018 09:15 IST
Adult couple has the right to live together without marriage: SC

In a historic first, the Supreme Court of India ruled on May 6, 2018 that an adult couple has the right to live together without marriage.

The apex court held that live-in relationships were now even recognized by the Legislature and they had found a place under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The court made the observation while asserting that a 20-year-old Kerala woman, whose marriage had been annulled, could choose whom she wanted to live with.

Case: Background

  • The court’s ruling came while it was hearing a petition filed by a man named Nandakumar against a Kerala High Court order annulling his marriage with Thushara on the ground that he had not attained the legal age of marriage.
  • According to Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, a girl can't marry before the age of 18 and a boy before 21.
  • Nandakumar, who had approached the top court, will turn 21 on May 30, 2018.
  • The high court had also granted the custody of Thushara to her father after noting that she was not Nandakumar's lawfully wedded wife.

The Court’s ruling: Key Highlights

• The ruling was made by a two-judge bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan.

• The bench stated that the couple’s marriage could not be said to be ‘null and void’ merely because Nandakumar was less than 21 years of age at the time of marriage.

• The court stated that the appellant, as well as Thushara, are Hindus and such a marriage is not a void marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

• It said that as per the provisions of section 12, which can be attracted in such a case, at the most, the marriage would be a voidable marriage.

• It also noted that both the appellant and Thushara are major and even if they were not competent to enter into wedlock, the position of which itself is disputed, they have the right to live together even outside wedlock.

• Further, while setting aside the order of Kerala HC granting custody of the woman to her father, the apex court said that "we make it clear that the freedom of choice would be of Thushara as to with whom she wants to live".

 



Besides, the court also referred to a recent case involving a woman from Kerala, Hadiya, where it had restored her marriage with Shafin Jahan on the ground that it was a marriage between two consenting adults.

The top court also clarified that a court cannot interfere in the marriage of two consenting adults and cannot annul the marriage in a habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, for securing the person's release) petition.

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