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Legality Of The De Facto Marriage

Author: Jay Kumar Gupta Student, NMIMS School Of Law, Bengaluru


Women who want to protect their rights in a long-term marriage partnership should read this article. The concept of live-in relationships is not explicitly recognized by the Indian legal system. However, Indian courts have often held that a long-term live-in relationship might generate a presumption of marriage to protect the interests of the women. Live-in partners have financial rights under the Protection of Women and Domestic Violence Act 2005.[1]

Reforming the Criminal Justice System 2003 (headed by Justice V.S. Malimath)

In this report, it was suggested that living together for a long time should be sufficient evidence that a marriage followed the parties’ customary rites and ceremonies,

The definition of “wife” in Section 125(b) CrPC[2] should therefore be widened to include any woman who lives with a man over an extended period in her capacity as his wife[3].

Moreover, the term, “wife” refers to a woman who has not remarried after being divorced or obtaining a divorce from her husband. (However, the definition is silent on whether a woman living in live-in relationships is included.)

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

Definition of domestic relationship in Section 2(f)[4]

Domestic relationships as per Section 2(f) of the PWDA, refers to those between two persons residing in a household as a couple, lawfully married or a relationship in the nature of marriage, or who are family members living together as a joint family.

The definition encompasses more than a marital relationship, it even covers live-in relationships in the nature of marriage.

Law on the presumption of marriage

Foreign Judgements from the UK

In the cases of Lousia Adelaide Piers & Florence A.M. De Kerriguen v. Sir Henry Samuel Piers, Lieutenant C.W. Campbell v. John A.G. Campbell (This case is also known as the Breadalbane case), Sastry Velaider Aronegary & his wife v. Sembecutty Viagalie & Ors., Dinohamy v. W.L. Balahamy, Mohabbat Ali Khan v. Muhammad Ibrahim Khan and Ors, the Supreme court of the UK held that law will presume in favor of marriage where a couple has lived as husband and wife for a long period and has shown themselves as same to the world.

Foreign Judgement from America

In the case of Marvin v. Marvin, The Supreme Court of California invented the term ‘palimony,’ which is a combination of the two terms i.e., ‘pal’ and ‘alimony,’ in the context of a social obligation which develops when a person enters into a live-in relationship with another woman without the ceremony of marriage.[10]

Following that, it was decided that the Family Law Act does not apply to a non-marital relationship and that such a relationship is controlled only by a court ruling. Courts should uphold relationships between non-marital couples unless they are founded on the appraisal of tendentious sexual services. In the absence of a written contract, the courts should look at the parties’ activities to see if they reflect an implied contract, a partnership or joint venture agreement, or any other hidden understanding.

The Supreme Court of India rulings

In Gokal Chand v. Parvin Kumari, the court has stated that although a man and a woman living together as husband and wife may strengthen the presumption of marriage, the presumption derived from the long period of cohabitation can be appealed and cannot be dismissed by the court by events that reduce or cancel this assumption.[11]

In the case of Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation & Ors, it was established that there is a high presumption in favor of marriage where the couples had lived together as husband and wife for a long period. The individual trying to deny the relationship of legal origin carries a heavy burden, even if the presumption can be refuted.[12]

In the case of Tulsa and Ors. v. Durghatiya & Ors.[13], It was stated that if the couples dwelt together as husband and wife for a long timeframe, an assumption of legitimate marriage would arise.

In the case of Kamala & Ors. v. M.R. Mohan Kumar[14], The husband claimed that he was never married and that the marriage was invalid, and that the children born to his wife were not his. According to the family court’s judgment, the wife has proven that there is a husband-wife relationship and that the children were born out of wedlock, as a result, she was given sustentation. The case was brought to the High Court on appeal. The High Court overturned the family court’s decision, and it was determined that the wife was unable to prove that she is the lawfully married wife because her marriage was not a valid one, so she is not the legitimate married wife, she is not granted sustentation. In addition, only a “wife” who is lawfully married can file a maintenance application. The Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s decision, ruling that a high level of proof is not required in maintenance cases per Section 125 Cr.P.C.[15] in contrast to marital cases, where stringent proof of marriage is required.

In the case of Chanmuniya vs Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha & Anr[17], After her husband’s demise, the widow wedded her brother-in-law. During the marriage, customary rights were not properly observed. For a brief period, their relationship was happy. Her brother-in-law then began to neglect her. The case was first brought before a trial court. The trial court ruled in favor of the wife and awarded her maintenance. The matter was then appealed to the High Court, which overturned the lower court’s decision and it was determined that the marriage was not performed as per Hindu customary rights as required by the Hindu Marriage Act. Finally, the case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the presumption of marriage in this case.

In the case of Indra Sarma vs V.K.V. Sarma[18],

The Apex Court provided criteria for establishing if a relationship is marital.

The following were the guidelines:

  1. An appropriate period for the relationship to continue might also vary based on the details in each situation.

  2. Living accommodations that are apportioned.

  3. Pooling of resources and financial arrangements supporting financially to each other, or any one of them, through joint bank accounts, acquisition of immobilized property in common names or on behalf of women, long-term commercial investments, separate actions, and common names, and so on, could be a guiding factor in maintaining a long-term connection.

  4. Situations at Home – A marriage-like relationship is evidenced by entrusting the task of running the home, completing household activities such as cleaning, cooking, maintenance, or upkeep of the house, and so on to the woman.

  5. Relationship Sexual Marriage, like any other connection, refers to a sexual relationship that is not just for fun, but also for emotional and interpersonal reasons, such as propagation of children, emotional support, friendship, and material affection, among other things.

  6. The existence of children is a clear sign of a marriage-like relationship. As a result, the parties want to maintain their connection for a long time. If you’re sharing the responsibility of raising and sustaining them, that’s also a good sign.

  7. Socialization in the Open – Maintaining the connection by going out in public and associating with friends, relatives, and others as if they were husband and wife is a powerful circumstance.

  8. The agreed idea of what a relationship should be and entail, as well as the relative roles and duties, determines the character of a relationship.


There is a lot of disagreement on the definition of the term ‘wife.’ There is still a significant predisposition in support of marriage if two unmarried couples live as husband and wife for a fair timeframe. If a man uses the perks of a de facto marriage without performing the duties and responsibilities, he should indeed be held financially responsible for the woman’s sustenance if he decides to abandon her. Under Supreme Court guidelines, women in live-in partnerships must exhibit marriage-like ties to get financial benefits. A woman who works as a mistress for a married man cannot reap the benefits under the pretence of De Facto marriage.


[1] The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, No. 43 of 2005, Acts of Parliament,2005(India)

[2] The Code of Criminal Procedure,1973, $125(b), No. 2, Acts of Parliament,1974(India)

[3] K. Deepalakshmi, The Malimath Committee’s recommendations on reforms in the criminal justice system in 20 points, The Hindu (January 17,2018 19:36 IST)

[4] Supra Note 1

[5] Lousia Adelaide Piers & Florence A.M. De Kerriguen v. Sir Henry Samuel Piers [(1849) II HLC 331]

[6] Lieutenant C.W. Campbell v. John A.G. Campbell [(1867) Law Rep. 2 HL 269]

[7] Sastry Velaider Aronegary & his wife v. Sembecutty Viagalie & Ors. [(1881) 6 AC 364)

[8] Dinohamy v. W.L. Balahamy (AIR 1927 P.C.185)

[9] Mohabbat Ali Khan v. Muhammad Ibrahim Khan and Ors. [AIR 1929 PC 135]

[10] Marvin v. Marvin [(1976) 18 Cal.3d 660).

[11] Gokal Chand v. Parvin Kumari [AIR 1952 SC 231]

[12] Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation & Ors [(1978) 3 SCC 527]

[13] Tulsa and Ors. v. Durghatiya & Ors. [2008 (4) SCC 520]

[14] Kamala & Ors. v. M.R. Mohan Kumar (2019) 11 SCC 491

[15] The Code of Criminal Procedure,1973, $125, No. 2, Acts of Parliament,1974(India)

[16] Savitaben Somabhat Bhatiya v. State of Gujarat and others AIR 2005 SC 1809

[17] Chanmuniya vs Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha & Anr AIR 2011 SCC 141

[18] Indra Sarma vs V.K.V. Sarma, Criminal Appeal Number of 2009 of 2013

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