The Kerala High Court observed that cohabitation between a man and woman will not acquire the character of a valid marriage if it is during the subsistence of another marriage.

Holding that the presumption made during circumstances of continuous cohabitation was a rebuttable one, the Bench of Justice Anu Sivaraman and Justice C Pratheep Kumar observed that, "cohabitation between a man and woman, however long it may be, the same will not acquire the character of a valid marriage, if it is during the subsistence of another marriage."

Counsel VR Kesava Kaimal, along with others, appeared for the appellants, while Counsel KP Hareendran appeared for the respondents.

The dispute originated when two women, the 1st respondent and 1st appellant, sought legal heirship certificates for family pension. The Family Court ruled in favour of the 1st respondent, declaring her the legally wedded wife. The 1st respondent argued that the deceased married her on 27.4.1966 through religious rites, while the 1st appellant claimed the marriage date was 28.3.1970.

The central question for the court was whether cohabitation between a man and a woman during an existing marriage could be considered a valid marriage.

The Court observed that although it is well settled that continuous cohabitation for a number of years may raise the presumption of marriage, it is not irrebuttable. In that context, it was noted that, "from the evidence on record it is proved that on 27.4.1966, Ramakrishnan Nambiar married the 1st respondent and during the subsistence of the above marriage, he alleged to have married the 1st appellant, the second marriage with the 1st appellant is void in view of Section 5(i) r/w Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act."

In light of the same, it was held that there was no irregularity or illegality in the impugned judgment, and the appeal was dismissed.

Cause Title: T Rema & Ors. vs AK Radhamani & Anr.

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