Case Name: Indra Sarma vs V.K.V. Sarma
Citation: AIR 2014 SC 309
Date of Judgement: 26-11-2013
Parties Involved: Indra Sarma and V.K.V. Sarma
Indra Sarma, an unmarried woman, left her job and began a “live-in” relationship with V.K.V. Sarma for a period as long as 18 years, despite knowing that he was married. V.K.V Sarma abandoned Indra Sarma in a state where she could not maintain herself. Under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, failure to maintain a woman involved in a “domestic relationship” amount to “domestic violence.” Two lower courts held that V.K.V. Sarma committed domestic violence by not maintaining Indra Sarma, and directed V.K.V.Sarma to pay a maintenance amount of Rs.18,000 per month. Thereafter, on appeal, the High Court of Karnataka set aside the orders of the lower courts on the ground that Indra Sarma was aware that V.K.V. Sarma was married and thus her relationship with him would fall outside the protected ambit of “relationship like marriage” under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
The two main issues are as follows:
- Whether a “live-in relationship” would amount to a “relationship like marriage” falling within the definition of “domestic relationship” under Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005?
- Whether the disruption of such a relationship by failure to maintain a woman involved in such a relationship amounts to “domestic violence” within the meaning of Section 3 of the Act?
The Supreme Court, while affirming the High Court’s order, created an exception to the general rule. The Supreme Court clarified that a woman who begins to live with a man who is already married to someone else, without knowing that he is married, will still be considered to be in a “domestic relationship” under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; thus, the man’s failure to maintain her will amount to “domestic violence” within the meaning of the Act and she will be eligible to claim reliefs such as maintenance and compensation.
Some guidelines (not exhaustive) were laid down to determine whether a live-in relationship falls within the category: –
- Duration of period of relationship
- Shared household- Defined in Section 2(s) of the DV Act
- Having/planning children- A very strong indicator
- Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements Supporting each other, or any one of them
- Sexual relationship- Not just for pleasure but for an emotional and intimate relationship
- Socialization in public- Holding out to the public and socializing with friends and families.
- Intention and conduct of the parties- Common intention of the parties as to what their relationship is to be
- Domestic arrangements entrusting the responsibility- Women to run home and do household chores
Since the appellant was aware that the respondent was a married person having two children even before the commencement of the relationship hence the status of the appellant is that of a concubine or mistress and cannot fall under Section 2(f) of Act of 2005 and cannot become within “domestic relationship” and therefore not entitled for any relief on the grounds of domestic violence.
The Appellant, having been fully aware of the fact that the Respondent was a married person, could not have entered into a live-in relationship like marriage. All live-in-relationships are not relationships like marriage. Appellant’s and the Respondent’s relationship is, therefore, not a “relationship like marriage” because it has no inherent or essential characteristic of a marriage. The Appellant’s status is lower than the status of a wife and that relationship would not fall within the definition of “domestic relationship” Under Section 2(f) of the Act.
This case is important because it established for the first time such an exception and calls for legislative action to protect women like Indra Sarma whose contributions in a joint household are often overlooked.