statesman news service
CHENNAI/KOLKATA, 19 JUNE: With the Madras High Court ruling that says couples who have premarital sex may be considered "married" evoking criticism from various quarters, including on social media, the court issued a clarification today defending its ruling, saying it has been passed to “protect Indian culture and welfare of women.”
On Monday, the High Court has ruled in a judgment, if any unmarried couple of the right legal age “indulge in sexual gratification,” this will be considered a valid marriage and they could be termed “husband and wife.”
The ruling, which immediately went viral on social media, evoked mixed reactions from various quarters, with some attacking it for undermining the institution of marriage.
In a clarificatory order today, which would be part of the judgment, the Madras High Court judge, Justice C S Karnan said: “If a bachelor aged 21 years or above and a spinster aged 18 years or above had pre-marital sex with intention to marry and, subsequent to this, the man deserts the woman, the victim woman can approach a civil forum for remedy after producing necessary substantial evidence to grant her social status as wife.”
Justice Karnan said the law provided for criminal proceedings against a man for cheating and deserting a woman after making a promise of marriage, but there was no provision for her to approach a civil forum for remedy.
Therefore, being the apex court for the state and a constitutional authority, the High Court had granted this relief.
Without fully understanding the court’s judgment, adverse comments shall not be passed, he said.
The clarificatory order added that Monday’s order did not, in any way, run against the cultural interest and religious systems followed by various communities.
The Court&’s order was not against any religion and was not intended to wound any Indian citizen.
“[It] had not in any way degraded the system of marriage performed as per the various religious and customs and rites among the various communities.”
Justice Karnan had passed the order while modifying an April 2006 judgment of a Coimbatore family court in a maintenance case involving a couple.
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.
The judge while settling the dispute over award of maintenance to the deserted Muslim woman had held if any couple, subject to their attaining the mandatory legal age, indulged in sexual relations, then it would be considered a valid marriage and they could be termed as husband and wife.
Legal experts also felt that the judgment was specific to the case and would not be a precedent. A senior advocate, Ajeetha says, “The lower court&’s ruling in this case is just being modified now through this judgment. The judgment has no bearing on future cases.”
In Kolkata, state advocate general Bimal Chatterjee agreed with the Madras High Court judge. “It is a long established law  that an adult man and a woman can be said to be married if they have been consensually cohabiting for a long period.”
Mr Chatterjee said. “A man or a woman can go to a court and claim a marital status after a long period of cohabitation” he added.