The Madras High Court’s judgment dated 17th June 2013 became a cause for controversy and much humour on social and other media throughout the nation. The judgment apparently designated premarital sex as a mode of solemnising a marriage. Newspapers and news channels came up with their own catchy headlines and therefore the news was interpreted by people in their own way and according to their own understanding.

Facts of the case

A Hindu woman and a muslim man were living under one roof and had sexual relations. The woman gave birth to two children between 1994 and 1999. Documents proved that the man was the father of the second child and that he had applied for a family card for himself, the woman and the two children. The marriage was not registered in the Islamic marriage register. The woman was deserted by the man in 1999 and the woman in 2000 filed for maintenance for her and the two children from the man.

High Court’s Judgment

The High Court or Justice CS Karnan was of the view that a “valid marriage” does not necessarily mean that all the customary rights pertaining to the married couple are to be followed and subsequently solemnized.  Solemnization of marriage is only a customary right and obligation and not a mandatory one. In the instant case, both man and the woman lived together as spouses and therefore the relationship between them cannot be termed as “illegitimate”. The Court was of the view that “ if a woman aged 18 or above has a sexual relationship with a man aged 21 or above, and during the course of such relationship, if the woman becomes pregnant, she would henceforth be treated as the wife and the man would be treated as the husband. Even if the girl does not become pregnant after having such sexual relationship with a man but if there is a strong documentary evidence to show the existence of such relationship then also the couple involved would be termed as wife and husband.

The Court stated that the marriage formalities like exchange of garlands or rings or circling around the matrimonial fire pit or registering of marriage at a government office are only for the satisfaction of the society and the main legal aspect for valid marriage is consummation or sexual interaction. Therefore the legal rights and obligations applicable to a normal wedded couple will also be applicable to couples who have had sexual relationships  which have been established.

Attack of the Media and ‘SocialNetworks’

“Couples Who Indulge in Premarital Sex to be Considered Married: Madras High Court” – India Times

“Couples who have premarital sex to be considered ‘married’- Madras HC” – The Hindu

“Pre-marital sex equals marriage, says Madras HC” – Hindustan Times

Clearly, the newspapers tried to convey the gist of the fifteen page judgment in one catchy headline. Although they succeeded in catching everyone’s eye but at the same time, deceived most of the readers. Without going through the judgment and facts of the case, people formulated opinions of their own. This was followed by an army of tweets and status updates on twitter and facebook, mocking the decision of the Honourable Court.

To understand the judgments, one needs to examine the facts of the case. In the case, a poor woman who had been deserted by her husband, was asking for a monthly maintenance. The husband and the wife had been living together for years under one roof and had children. The husband raised the contention that the marriage was not officially registered and therefore invalid. Therefore, to ensure justice, the Court held that the sexual relationship itself solemnised the marriage.  We are not talking about a one-night stand or an affair which goes on for months but a relationship which continued for six years and out of which, children were begotten.

The Madras High Court very strongly objected the criticism of the verdict. Justice CS Karnan, who gave the judgment said “the court has given the legal relief to the affected woman and without fully understanding the court’s judgment, adverse comments shall not be passed.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. dude.. where is the analysis.. this is a crappy post.. I can give a better analysis while sleeping than this.. a court’s judgement is not only restricted to the facts.. the judge intended to lay down an interpretation of law( don’t ask me which law, as the badly written judgment is has logic and law missing).. dont give me bullshit like it is restricted to law.. it is a bad judgement. PERIOD.

  2. after been to the whole case and perusing the operative part of the
    judgement as well ,my view is that here the judgement is becoming the
    talk of the day only because of the reason that it has stretched the
    verdict to maintenance of sexual relations as the ground of marriage .
    if it would have been confined till reproduction then it would be fine
    with people but here even the maintenance of sexual relations itself has
    been kept as the base for marriage , it has nothing to do with
    cohabitation as well . So in my view point this view is actually narrow ,
    firstly because it will destroy the base for live-in relationship which
    has been duly ratified by the Hon,ble SC and will also make it
    difficult for opposite sexes to approach each other for sex without much
    confusion in mind . Though the justice has truly been delivered in the
    instant case but the extended view of Hon,ble high court is destroying
    the concept and needs of the modern day society where liberalization
    and urbanization has led to the growth of a very open and cosmopolitan
    environment and sex is seen no more a taboo .Therefore the fear of
    carrying such Legal obligation in the privacy is panicking the youth .
    Though the age kept is 18 for girl and 21 for boy , but you see how much
    grown up they are to take a decision in that age to settle permanently
    with each other , 18 year girl would maximum be school pass out and 21
    would be ongoing graduation and just having a taste of adulthood , are
    they in a position to take a decision to stick together for life long ?
    …but the need for sex to stay psychologically apt starts at around the
    same age 16 in girl and 18 in boy .. This very scientific view and
    approach towards understanding sex is vital to maintain equilibrium in
    the society . Hence the bifurcation aspect and settling down of
    appropriate standards for considering the sexual relations as the base
    for marriage is important in my view point which is completely missing
    in the judgement .

  3. Ok!! I am a 23 year old guy!!! My girlfriend is 22… Suppose that we have sex, and she gets pregnant!!! I ask her to get an abortion but she goes on to have the baby!!! I am supposed to be paying maintainance?!?!?!? Ridiculous!!! Its not as if she didn’t partake… She was having sex with me, as much as I with her!!! This is super ridiculous!!!!

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