SC grants succession right to live-in partner
Ruling Despite Man’s Wife Being Alive
Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN New Delhi:
Setting a precedent, the Supreme Court has granted succession certificate to a woman after the death of the man she was living with and despite the fact that his legally-wedded wife was alive.
This gives a new twist to the concept of live-in relationship. In the past, the court had repeatedly shown inclination to assume valid marriage between a man and a woman who lived together as husband and wife for ‘long years’ without specifying the inheritance rights of the woman in such a relationship.
In this judgment, the court gave succession certificate to the live-in partner on the ground that the children born out of the relationship were legitimate disregarding the fact that the man had a legally-wedded wife, who never lived with him.
One Vidyadhari had lived for a long time with Sheetaldeen and gave birth to four children from him. After the death of Sheetaldeen, Vidyadhari claimed succession certificate on the basis of her being mentioned as the nominee by him in the provident fund and life insurance policies.
After the death of Sheetaldeen, both Vidyadhari and his legally-wedded wife, Sukharna Bai, filed petitions before a Madhya Pradesh trial court seeking right of succession to his properties.The trial court rejected Sukharna Bai’s claim, but the high court reversed the decision saying there was no evidence to substantiate Vidyadhari’s claim that there was a customary divorce between Sheetaldeen and his legally-wedded wife. After reaching this finding, the HC had held that Sukharna Bai alone was entitled to the right of succession and not Vidyadhari.
An apex court Bench comprising Justices S B Sinha and V S Sirpurkar came to the rescue of Vidyadhari and said though the HC was right in reaching the conclusion about subsisting marriage between Sheetaldeen and Sukharna Bai, it was wrong in denying succession certificate to Vidyadhari for the purpose of collecting provident fund and life insurance amounts.
Whatever be the status of Vidyadhari, there was no doubt about the legitimacy of the four children born out of her relationship with Sheetaldeen, said Justice Sirpurkar, who wrote the judgment on behalf of the Bench.
“No doubt Vidyadhari herself claimed to be a legal heir which status she could not have claimed, but besides that she had the status of a nominee of Sheetaldeen. She continued to stay with Sheetaldeen as his wife for a long time and was a person of confidence for Sheetaldeen who had nominated her for his PF, life cover scheme, pension and amount of life insurance and other dues,” he said.