Live-in relationships are no longer frowned upon as they formerly were. The number of live-in relationships has increased exponentially as a result of globalisation and the society’s underlying modernization. Being a new concept, it makes it difficult for the judiciary to interpret the laws in terms of the numerous rights and obligations of the engaged partners and any children. The Honorable Supreme Court recently ruled that even children born from a live-in relationship have the coparcenary right to inherit the family’s property. In the matter of Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan & Anr vs. Kattukandi Edathil Valsan & Ors, a two-judge panel made up of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath reached this decision while reviewing an appeal brought against the Kerala High Court.
WHAT WERE THE FACTS OF THE CASE?
The problem involves a property dispute in a Calicut Thiyya family that is governed by Hindu Family Law and the Mitakashara School of law. One Kattukand Edathil Karanan Vaidyar, who had four sons named Damodaran, Achuttan, Sekharan, and Narayan, existed. Karunakaran, the first defendant, in this case, is the son of married woman Achuttan. According to the plaintiffs, Damodaran married Chiruthakutty in 1940, and their son, Plaintiff 1, was born as a result. The two remaining sons of Kuttukand passed away singly. Damodaran married Chiruthakutty in 1940 and had a son, Krishnan (Plaintiff 1), in 1942. After the passing of his father Damodaran, the plaintiff claimed that he and his mother relocated. The problem started in 1985 when Plaintiff 1 was not granted payments or his portion of the coparcenary property after his mother passed away. The plaintiff argued that as the legal son of his parents, he was entitled to a portion of the inherited wealth.
Plaintiff 1 was not the legal son born out of wedlock, according to the defendants, hence he was not entitled to any share of the property. This is predicated on the argument that Damodaran and Chiruthakutty were not legally wedded.
WHAT RULINGS WERE MADE BY THE TRIAL COURT AND HIGH COURT IN THIS CASE?
The trial court ruled in favour of Plaintiff 1 and stated that the long-term living together and cohabitation that existed between Damodaran and Chiruthakutty served as the foundation for determining the existence of marriage, making Plaintiff’s kid the product of an unmarried relationship. It mandated that the property should be split into two parts, one of which was to be granted to Plaintiff 1. The Kerala High Court upheld the appeal and determined that Plaintiff 1 was the son of Damodaran and Chiruthakutty. However, the evidence presented does not establish that the two were legally married. As a result, Plaintiff 1 lost his right to any share of the property and became an illegitimate child. The Supreme Court then heard the case.
THE PERTINENT LEGAL PROVISIONS IN THIS CASE
This case falls under the domain of personal laws relating to laws of inheritance in the Hindu Family. Owing to the case facts, Section 114 of The Evidence Act, 1872, Hindu Succession Act,1956 and the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908( xx Rule 18) are the relevant legal provisions that need to be addressed.
THE CONCLUSION MADE BY THE SUPREME COURT
The plaintiff’s rights were examined in the case, and his claim was carefully tested to allow him a share in the ancestral property. First, the status of Damodaran and Chiruthakutty’s marriage had to be determined. A long cohabitation was required to prove the existence of a valid marriage. In the case of Badri Prasad vs. Deputy Director of Consolidation (1978), the Supreme Court ruled that there is a strong presumption in favour of wedlock between partners who have been living as husband and wife for a long time. Although this presumption is rebuttable, the onus is on him who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage occurred.
This provided satisfactory answers to both questions: First off, Plaintiff No. 1 was born to Damodaran and Chiruthakutty, who were presumed to have been legally wed based on the length of their marriage. Second, it is well-established law in Hindu households that children born out of a relationship based on a protracted period of cohabitation are legal offspring with coparcenary rights to the family’s property. Based on the evidence and case law, the Supreme Court determined that Plaintiff 1 was a genuine child born in a marriage, entitling him to inherit the family’s part of the property.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS RULING?
The decision has provided clarity on some legal ambiguities about the rights of children born via adoption. The law treats such offspring in this way, even though the word “illegitimate” itself seems quaint and strange. Technically, live-in partnerships are based on the performance of cohabitation for a longer period and carrying out the responsibilities of a husband and wife. Since the law favours marriage over concubinage, live-in partnerships have the advantage of a lengthy history of cohabitation, which provides them with a presumption in their favour and strengthens the case for the legitimacy of any children produced as a result of such a relationship.
Despite its significance, this is not the first time the Supreme Court has endorsed the rights of children born from live-in relationships. The Supreme Court addressed the status of children born through live-in relationships in the case of Tulsa & Ors vs Durghatiya & Ors, (2008). For a child to claim the status of a legitimate child born from a live-in relationship, the partners must have lived together for an extended period. Such a child can then assert ownership of ancestral property. This case has validated the long-term cohabitation point. Therefore, the present case is a further boost in the status of live-in relations and helps in enhancing the liberty of people in modern society.
Author’s Name: Pragya Swaraj (Chanakya National Law University, Patna)