A Supreme Court Bench of Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Vikram Nath set aside a judgment passed by the Kerala High Court where the High Court had held that the Plaintiffs would not be entitled to a share in coparcenary property because the first Plaintiff was an illegitimate child.

The Supreme Court held that "It is well settled that if a man and a woman live together for long years as husband and wife, there would be a presumption in favour of wedlock. Such a presumption could be drawn under Section 114 of the Evidence Act. Although, the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seek to deprive the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage took place."

The suit property belonged to a family which is governed by the Mitikshara Law of Inheritance. The original owner of the suit property had 4 sons. One of the sons had a son (Defendant No. 1) who married Defendant No. 3 and their children came to be Defendants Nos. 2, 4, and 5. Plaintiff No. 1 was the son of another son of the original owner of the suit property. However, the Defendants contended that this son was illegitimate.

Senior Counsel Mr. V Chitambaresh appeared for the Plaintiffs and Senior Counsel Mr. V Giri and Mr. R Basant appeared for the Defendants.

The Trial Court found that Plaintiff No. 1's parents had a long cohabitation and thus it could be concluded that they were married, and their son was legitimate. The Trial Court passed a preliminary decree for partition of the suit property into two shares and one such share was allotted to the plaintiffs.

The Defendants approached the High Court, and their Appeal was allowed. The High Court held that there was no evidence to establish that the parents of Plaintiff No. 1 had a long cohabitation.

The Plaintiffs appealed before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court relied on a catena of judgments including Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation and Others to opine that a strong presumption arises in favor of wedlock where two partners have lived together for a long spell as husband and wife.

On the basis of merits, the Court opined that the Defendants failed to rebut the presumption in favor of a marriage between Plaintiff No. 1's parents, on account of their long co­habitation.

Therefore, the Supreme Court allowed the Appeals and set aside the order and judgment of the High Court.

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