Thursday, March 17, 2011

SC rejects feminist organisation’s plea for quashing "keep" remarks

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition by a women's group seeking withdrawal of the controversial phrase "keep" used by it in a judgement in which it held that a "one night stand" with a man would not entitle a woman to maintenance.

A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and T S Thakur rejected Mahila Dakshat Samiti's petition on the ground that it had no locus standi(legal right) to question the judgement since it was not a party to the matrimonal dispute in which the judgement was passed.

In the judgement delivered on October 21 last year, the apex court had held "if a man has a 'keep' whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and or as a servant, it would not in our opinion be a relationship in the nature of marriage."

The country's lone woman Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising and Vinay Bhardwaj, Vice President of the Samiti, expressed dissappointment at the apex court's refusal to withdraw the "derogatory remark."

The bench in a terse order today said "application for permission to file a review petition is rejected. This review petition has been filed on behalf of Mahila Dakshat Samiti seeking review of this court's order dated 21st October, 2010 whereby the appeals were allowed.

"Mahila Dakshat Samiti was not a party before this court or before the High Court or trial court. Having carefully gone through the review petition and connected papers, we see no reason to grant permission to Mahila Dakshat Samiti to file this review petition.
Hence, the application for permission to file review petition is rejected." The apex court in the judgement had ruled that a woman in a live-in relationship is not entitled to maintenance unless she fulfils certain parameters and said merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a domestic relationship.

It formulated the following parameters for a woman in live-in relationship to seek maintenance.
(1) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses, (2) they must be of legal age to marry, (3) they must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage including being unmarried, (4) they must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.
"In our opinion, not all live-in relationships will amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of the Act of 2005 (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act). To get such benefits, the conditions mentioned by us above must be satisfied and this has to be proved by evidence," the court had said.

The apex court had passed the judgement while setting aside the concurrent orders passed by a matrimonial court and the Madras High Court awarding Rs 500 maintenance to D Patchaiammal who claimed to have married the appellant D Velusamy.
Velusamy had challenged the two courts' order on the ground that he was already married to one Laxmi and Patchiammal was not married to him though he lived with her for some time. Jaising said "the judges have chosen the easy option instead of confronting the issue as would be expected from judges from the Supreme Court."

She said the Samiti was an organisation with an illustrious track record of having worked in the interest of women for the last several decades including formulation of the dowry prohibition act and hence its credibility could never be doubted.
"The issues raised in the review peition do not relate to the parties to the case alone but to women as a class. The issues are use of gender bias language in judgements of the Supreme Court of India.

"It is expected gender-neuter language. The objection was to the word 'keep' and expression used only in relation to women in a highly derogatory context," she said adding the apex court had missed a "historic opportunity to correct a wrong."
Bhardwaj said she was deeply disturbed by the judgement as the apex court since the 1980s had played very progressive roles on women issues.

"As the time goes, the Supreme Court should have taken up positive and progressive views in view of the magnitude of the problems of women. Instead, it has chosen to dismiss the petition," she said.