Premarital sex equivalent to getting married?

By Shiladitya Ghose
From BITS Pilani, Goa
Posted Jun 19th 2013 5:00AM

The Madras High Court has stunned one and all with its recent ruling, pertaining to marriage. In a decision that has perplexed many, specially the younger generation, the court has ruled that if both partners are of legal age, that is the bachelor has completed 21 years of age and an unmarried woman 18 years, they have acquired the freedom of choice guaranteed by the Constitution. "Consequently, if any couple choose to consummate their sexual cravings, then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow, except on certain exceptional considerations." Justice C S Karnan said in his order. Terming the traditional marriage customs of tying a mangalsutra, garlands and rings, with flowers and calling priests as mere formalities Justice Karnan said that they were only for the satisfaction of society.

The judgment also means that either party can approach a family court for declaration of marital status by producing documentary proof for a sexual relationship. The judge also said once such a declaration is obtained, the couple can establish themselves as husband and wife in any government records.

This judgment came in the wake of a case which had come before the Madras HC. Justice Karan modified an April 2006 judgement of a family court in a maintenance case, according to a report in the Hindu. A family court in Coimbatore had ordered a man to pay Rs 500 maintenance per month to his two children and Rs 1000 as litigation expenses and had held that the woman's wedding with him did not have any documentary proof. In his judgement, Justice Karnan directed the man to pay her maintenance of Rs 500 a month from the date of petition (September 2000) and that the arrears be paid within three months.

This controversial decision has set the Social media on fire. While law experts say that the decision pertained to this case only, we know that judgments passed by High Courts are of tremendous importance and are often cited in smaller courts. Sometimes these judgments are used a law themselves in case of ambiguity in the actual law or absence of any law, concerning this issue. Stated simply, the judgments says that if you have can consensual sex with a member of the opposite sex, then the two of you are legally married if you are able to show documentary proof of that sexual relationship.

This judgment is open ended, open to different interpretations by different people . What is documentary proof? Perhaps a movie clip? Imagine having to play a movie clip of your sexual relationship to prove that you are married to someone? The idea is hilarious. Secondly, what about extra marital affairs, that is becoming quite often in our society? If the "illegitimate" partner manages to prove that there is a sexual relationship, the original partners will have to file for divorce because the illegitimate person and cheating partner are now husband and wife. The prostitution and porn industry, which are thriving in India can have documentary proof of penetration- then does it imply that that the people involved can get married? Casual consensual sex with friends is pretty common and this judgment throws into jeopardy all such one night flings.

Twitter was abuzz with this news. Here are some tweets that can make you go rolling on your stomachs
  • I wanna marry you, suddenly sounds so pervert.. #MadrasHC.
  • After this verdict by #MadrasHC I'm sure there are ppl who are married 'n' number of times!
  • omg! how is one supposed to collect 'proof' of sex? n whatever will happen to casual sex? #madrasHC.
  • I would like to congratulate all my friends and colleagues on their unwitting marriages #MadrasHC.
  • #MadrasHC, making wedding invitations awkward since 2013! #fb.
  • After the Madras HC observations, Live in relationships would now be considered as legal marriages... #MadrasHC.

This is an extremely sensitive issue and one needs to exercise caution while dealing with a judgment of this magnitude. Yet the general feeling on social media is that Justice Karan was too hasty in giving such a crucial judgment, one which can have far reaching consequences in the near future.
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