Live-in relationships end when either party decides to leave, says Madras High Court

The ruling was given by Justice R M T Teekaa Raman recently on an appeal filed by P Jayachandran from Nagavedu, Ranipet, challenging the judgment and decree of a trial court.
Madras High Court
Madras High Court(File photo | Express)

CHENNAI: Holding that a live-in relationship entered into by a man — already married with five children — with another woman cannot get the status of a legal marriage in the absence of formalisation of the relationship through marriage as per the law, the Madras High Court ruled that such a man cannot claim rights over property that stands on the woman’s name following a settlement deed.

The ruling was given by Justice R M T Teekaa Raman recently on an appeal filed by P Jayachandran from Nagavedu, Ranipet, challenging the judgment and decree of a trial court. The judge noted, “Relationship of marriage continues, notwithstanding the fact that there are differences of opinions, marital unrest, etc., even if they are not sharing a household, being based on law. But a live-in-relationship is purely an arrangement between the parties. Once a party determines he/she does not wish to live in such a relationship, it comes to an end.”

The appellant, Jayachandran, a school teacher, was married to Stella and had five children. He entered into a live-in relationship with Margarette Arulmozhi, who was working as the headmistress of a panchayat union middle school. He effected a settlement deed in the name of Arulmozhi in 2010, transferring a low income group (LIG) plot, which stood in his name, to her as a mark of love and affection. However, he ‘unilaterally’ cancelled the settlement deed in 2013 after she passed away.

Arulmozhi’s father A Yesurathinam filed a plaint in 2013 in the Second Additional Sessions Court, Ranipet, seeking declaration of title of the property to him in his capacity as the sole legal heir of the deceased.

Relationship not formalised: HC

The court, in 2016, ordered in favour of Yesurathinam, after finding that the live-in relationship between Jayachandran and Arulmozhi was not ‘converted into a legitimate marriage’ because they had not formalised their relationship as per law and also Jayachandran had not divorced Stella.

Aggrieved, Jayachandran filed an appeal stating Arulmozhi had named him as the nominee for her special provident fund cum gratuity, and that he was receiving the family pension after her death. Justice Teekaa Raman negated the claims saying that the unilateral cancellation of the settlement deed is ‘impermissible’ in law and nomination in service records is only for the purpose of receiving terminal benefits.

He negated the appellant’s claim that he had divorced Stella through ‘customary divorce’. The court said a divorce between Christians has to be effected on certain grounds described under Indian Divorce Act. The judge stated the relationship was not one in the ‘nature of a marriage’ and her status was that of a ‘concubine’.

The judge ordered that as Yesurathinam passed away, two parties from his side are entitled to the property.

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