In the judgment as passed by the Supreme Court in Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma [Dated 26.11.2013, Criminal Appeal No. 2009 of 2013] the Court dealt with the issue as to whether a “live-in relationship” would amount to a “relationship in the nature of marriage” falling within the definition of “domestic relationship” under Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) and the disruption of such a relationship by failure to maintain a women involved in such a relationship amounts to “domestic violence” within the meaning of Section 3 of the DV Act. The Apex Court while adjudicating upon the issue propounded guidelines to indicate under what circumstances, a live-in relationship will fall within the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage” under Section 2(f) of the DV Act holding arrived at in this matter can certainly be considered as timeless ratio and worth including in this category.
Supreme Court framed following guidelines, which were stated to be not exhaustive, but certainly giving some insight to such relationships:
(1) Duration of period of relationship Section 2(f) of the DV Act has used the expression “at any point of time”, which means a reasonable period of time to maintain and continue a relationship which may vary from case to case, depending upon the fact situation.
(2) Shared household – The expression has been defined under Section 2(s) of the DV Act and, hence, need no further elaboration.
(3) Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements – Supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so as to have a long standing relationship, may be a guiding factor.
(4) Domestic Arrangements – Entrusting the responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or upkeeping the house, etc. is an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.
(5) Sexual Relationship – Marriage like relationship refers to sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for emotional and intimate relationship, for procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring etc.
(6) Children – Having children is a strong indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage. Parties, therefore, intend to have a long standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting them is also a strong indication.
(7) Socialization in Public – Holding out to the public and socializing with friends, relations and others, as if they are husband and wife is a strong circumstance to hold the relationship is in the nature of marriage.
(8) Intention and conduct of the parties – Common intention of parties as to what their relationship is to be and to involve, and as to their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.
Supreme Court, besides the above, took the view in the instant matter that X having been fully aware of the fact that the Y was a married person, could not have entered into a live-in relationship in the nature of marriage. All live-in relationships are not relationships in the nature of marriage. The relationship between X and Y was not a “relationship in the nature of marriage” because it has no inherent or essential characteristic of a marriage, but a relationship other than “in the nature of marriage” and the X’s status was lower than the status of a wife and that relationship would not fall within the definition of “domestic relationship” under Section 2(f) of the DV Act.
If the relationship between X and Y is held to be a relationship in the nature of a marriage, it would be an injustice to the legally wedded wife and children who opposed that relationship. Consequently, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the Y in connection with that type of relationship, would not amount to “domestic violence” under Section 3 of the DV Act.
X’s status was held to be that of a mistress and any direction to Y to pay maintenance or monetary consideration to X, it would be at the cost of the legally wedded wife and children of Y having a cause of action against X for alienating the companionship and affection of the husband/parent, an intentional tort.