The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that a partner in a live-in relationship is eligible to seek maintenance under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice UU Lalit and Justice KM Joseph, stated the same while answering questions referred to it.
“In fact, under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005 the victim, that is, the estranged wife or live-in partner would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely, to a shared household also,” the bench said.
“What would be significant to note is that economic abuse also constitutes domestic violence,” the order further stated.
The Jharkhand High Court had said that Section 125 of the CrPC (Order for maintenance of wives, children and parents) would not apply to a woman who is not the legally wedded wife of the person, from whom she can claim maintenance. In 2013, Justice T S Thakur and Justice Kurien Joseph referred three questions to be answered by a larger bench in Lalita Toppo vs. the State of Jharkhand.
The questions referred to the larger bench were:
1. Whether the living together of a man and woman as husband and wife for a considerable period of time would raise the presumption of a valid marriage between them and whether such a presumption would entitle the woman to maintenance under Section 125, Cr.P.C.
2. Whether strict proof of marriage is essential for a claim of maintenance under Section 125, CrPC having regard to the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005?
3. Whether a marriage performed according to the 5 customary rites and ceremonies without strictly fulfilling the requisites of Section 7(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, or any other personal law would entitle the woman to maintenance under Section 125, CrPC?
The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court declined to answer the questions as they were based on orders that came prior to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and disposed of the matter.