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Landmark observation wipes off social stigma attached to live- in relationships, says it doesn't attract any legal action

IN A major psychological boost to couples in live- in relationships, the Supreme Court for the first time on Thursday removed the stigma from such liaisons, saying it has now become an accepted norm in society.

" In modern times, live- in relationship has become an acceptable norm. It is not a crime," a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant observed.

Though the apex court has twice earlier ruled that live- in relationship is not a crime, it is for the first time that it has acknowledged that with passing time, the society has accepted it and the relation does not attract any penal action.

The judges made the remark during a discussion in the court on whether exposing a public figure's live- in relationship would amount to defamation.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi replied that public should not look into the personal life of a public figure, as is being increasingly witnessed, and it serves no public interest.

But the most interesting aspect is that the significant observation came during the hearing of petitions filed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief

Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who wants the Supreme Court to decriminalise the offence of defamation.

Opposing the petition seeking quashing of criminal defamation law, Rohatgi submitted that doing away with the law would bring anarchy into the society. He also stated that the reach of the social media made it all the more important that there should be criminal punishment for defamation.

" In the 1950s, a maligning word could be carried to only five people in a group; now it reaches lakhs ( of people) within minutes through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, it is necessary to keep criminal punishment intact for defamation," Rohatgi said.

Gandhi has been booked in a criminal defamation case in a Bhiwandi court in Thane district of Maharashtra for allegedly blaming Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS) for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. He made the comments while campaigning during the general elections last year.

Kejriwal is facing prosecution after

being summoned as an accused under Sections 499 ( defamation) and 500 ( punishment for defamation) on a complaint lodged by Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari.

Gadkari has alleged that he was defamed by Kejriwal by including his name in the party's list of" India's most corrupt". The trial is pending and the Union minister has partly recorded his statement in the case.

The other defamation case, in which the trial was stayed on Thursday, had been lodged against Kejriwal at Karkardooma trial court by Sheila Dikshit's former political secretary Pawan Khera in 2013 for his alleged remarks against the former chief minister during protests over power tariff hike in

October 2012.

Swamy is facing four defamation cases filed by bete noire Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for a host of" offensive" comments he allegedly made against her. The trial against Gandhi, Kejriwal and Swamy has already been stayed by the apex court.

In its judgment of November 28, 2013, the Supreme Court had asked Parliament to frame a law for the protection of women in live- in relationships and children born out of it.

On April 13, 2015, the court had ruled that if an unmarried couple is living together as husband and wife, they would be presumed to be legally married and the woman would be eligible to inherit property after the death of her partner.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Jul 24, 2015
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