In a judgment having far-reaching consequences, a single judge of the Madras High Court has held that rituals in a wedlock are only to comply with each other’s respective religious customs for the satisfaction of the larger society and the same will not stand legal scrutiny.
The judge was passing orders on a criminal revision petition from Aysha, challenging the orders of a Family Court.
According to the petitioner, she married Ozir Hassan on September 16, 1994, as per Muslim customs and started living together with him in Coimbatore. She gave birth to a female child in 1996 and another one in 1999, after which Hassan deserted her. She moved the Family Court in Coimbatore seeking maintenance.
The trial court, after going through the hospital records, held that the two children were legitimate and entitled to Rs 500 per month each as maintenance. The court, however, held that Aysha was not a legitimate wife, as she could not produce any legally valid document to her marriage with Hassan. Hence, the present revision petition in the High Court.
Justice Karnan observed that for solemnising a marriage, legal aspects were to be placed on a higher scale and the customary aspects would not command such a stature. In this case, Hassan had officially admitted that Aysha was his wife and he was her husband in the hospital records.
The woman’s rank had been elevated as the wife and likewise the man as the husband. Therefore, the children born to them were legitimate and the woman was the legitimate wife.
“If a woman aged 18 or above has a sexual relationship with a man aged 21 or above, and during the course of such a relationship becomes pregnant, she would henceforth be treated as the wife. Even if the woman does not become pregnant after having such a sexual relationship, but if there is strong documentary evidence to show the existence of such a relationship, then also the couple involved in such acts would be termed as wife and husband,” the judge said and allowed the petition.
The judge directed the husband to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 500 to his wife from September 2000. The arrears up to May this year should be paid within three months.