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Live-in relationship and Section 498-a Indian Penal Code

Supreme Court rules that a woman cannot be prosecuted for cruelty if she is staying with a married man in a live-in relationship

16.09.2010 (UNI) The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman staying with a married man in a live-in relationship cannot be prosecuted for cruelty under section 498-A of Indian Penal Code.

A bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and A K Patnaik ruled that such a woman can, however, be proceeded under provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The apex court dropped criminal proceedings against appellant Sunita Jha initiated by Asha Rani Pal, wife of Mukund Chandra Pandit of Dumka, Jharkhand, under section 498 A IPC.

Justice Kabir, in an 11-page judgement written for the bench on September 13, noted that a woman who is staying with a married man without formal marriage cannot be granted the status of a relative of the husband.

The Supreme Court observed that 498-A IPC being a penal provision deserved strict construction and in the given circumstances a girlfriend or even a concubine cannot be a relative of the married man with whom she has been living.

The status of a relative, the court said, could be conferred either by blood connection or marriage or adoption and if no marriage has taken place the question of one being relative of another would not arise.

Asha had alleged in her complaint that Sunita and Pandit were treating her with cruelty as Sunita was staying with her husband as his wife.

The apex court set aside the High Court judgement of April 29, 2009, saying it committed an error by giving Sunita the status of wife of Pandit.

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