On Tuesday, (November 2, 2021), Madras High Court held that living together for a long time will not provide any legal rights to raise a matrimonial dispute unless their marriage has been solemnized in accordance with law.
In this case a woman, the appellant who is a mother of two had been previously deserted by her first husband. She alleged that she had thereafter obtained divorce from him.
The appellant stated that that in 2013 she had married the other party in a wedding comprised of close relatives and friends. It was further alleged that she and the respondent had even exchanged rings and he had also put metti in her toes during the ritual.
The plaintiff claimed that a large amount of money was given to the respondent after the reported marriage, however, he had started living away from her since May 2016 and to seek justice she had filed a petition before the Family Court seeking restitution of Conjugal rights.
The respondent alleged that no marriage had taken place between them and that a civil suit had been initiated by him before a District Munsif Court in Coimbatore to restrain the petitioner from claiming him to be her husband. The respondent also claimed that he was a Christian and the other party was a Hindu and thus the alleged marriage had taken place neither in the Christian way nor the Hindu way. It was also held that the marriage did not take place under the Special Marriage Act.
FAMILY COURT’S VERDICT
The Court stated that “When the marriage has not been solemnized under any one of the enactments, even assuming that there was long and continuous cohabitation or the parties were living together will not give rise to a cause of action for filing an application for restitution of conjugal rights. Long cohabitation or living together will not confer upon the parties any legal right to raise a matrimonial dispute before the Family Court, unless their marriage has been solemnized in a manner known to law”
The Court held that the appellant had not shown any copy of the decree of the divorce from her first husband, and therefore she was still married to her first husband.
The Court further stated that “The Appellant has claimed that she had obtained a decree for divorce from her first husband, she has not chosen either to file the copy of the order or even refer the date and case number in her petition. These facts will clearly point out that the Appellant herein is a married woman and she has been deserted by her husband and she has not obtained divorce through Court. This will clearly show that the Appellant continues to be the wife of another person whose name, the Appellant has not chosen to disclose."
The Bench comprising of Justices S. Vaidyanathan and R. Vijayakumar held that the jurisdiction of a family court is limited to entertain proceedings for restitution of conjugal rights only between parties to a marriage.
Since in the present case no marriage existed between the two parties therefore, this case is not within the jurisdiction of the Family Court and hence was disposed of after upholding the trial Court’s verdict.