The Madras High Court has ruled that if any unmarried couple of the right legal age "indulge in sexual gratification," this will be considered a valid marriage.
The court said that if a bachelor has completed 21 years of age and an unmarried woman 18 years, they have acquired the freedom of choice guaranteed by the Constitution. "Consequently, if any couple choose to consummate their sexual cravings, then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow, except on certain exceptional considerations."
The court said marriage formalities as per various religious customs such as the tying of a mangalsutra, the exchange of garlands and rings or the registering of a marriage were only to comply with religious customs for the satisfaction of society.
The court further said if necessary either party to a relationship could approach a Family Court for a declaration of marital status by supplying documentary proof for a sexual relationship. Once such a declaration was obtained, a woman could establish herself as the man's wife in government records.
The court also said if after having a sexual relationship, the couple decided to separate due to difference of opinion, the 'husband' could not marry without getting a decree of divorce from the 'wife'.
Justice C.S. Karnan passed the order yesterday while modifying an April 2006 judgment of a Coimbatore family court in a maintenance case involving a couple, The Hindu reports.
The lower court had ordered the man to pay monthly maintenance of Rs. 500 to the couple's two children and Rs. 1000 as litigation expenses. The lower court observed that the woman's wedding with the man had not been proved by documentary evidence. Hence, she was not entitled to maintenance.
In her appeal to the High Court, the woman's counsel contended that she was legally married and had two children in wedlock.