Legal Article

Case summary of Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan & Anr vs Kattukandi Edathil Valsan & Ors

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

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Published on: 30 Nov, 2023

In recent times, there has been a significant rise in the occurrence of individuals engaging in live-in relationships, presenting challenges for the judiciary in interpreting laws concerning the rights and obligations of partners and their offspring. The Honorable Supreme Court, in Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan & Anr vs Kattukandi Edathil Valsan & Ors., asserted that children born out of such relationships have coparcenary rights in ancestral property.

The case revolves around a property dispute within a Thiyya family of Calicut governed by the Mitakashara school of law under Hindu Family Law. Kattukand Edathil Karanan Vaidyar, the patriarch, had four sons: Damodaran, Achuttan, Sekharan, and Narayan. Achuttan, who was married, had a son named Karunakaran, identified as Defendant 1 in this case. The plaintiffs argued that Damodaran, another son, married Chiruthakutty in 1940 and had Plaintiff 1 as their son. The remaining two sons of Kuttukand remained unmarried.

Damodaran and Chiruthakutty were married in 1940, and they had a son named Krishanan (Plaintiff 1) in 1942. Plaintiff 1 claimed that after his father Damodaran’s demise, he and his mother relocated their residence. In 1985, a dispute arose when Plaintiff 1 was not granted payments and his share in the coparcenary property following his mother’s death. Plaintiff contended that, being the legitimate son of his parents, he was entitled to a share in the ancestral property.

The defendants argued that Plaintiff 1 was not entitled to any share of the property as he was not the legitimate son born within a valid wedlock. Their claim rested on the assertion that there was no valid marriage between Damodaran and Chiruthakutty.

How did the trial court and the high court decide the matter?

The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff 1, affirming that the extended cohabitation between Damodaran and Chiruthakutty indicated a valid marriage, establishing Plaintiff 1 as a legitimate son. The court ordered the property division, allotting a share to Plaintiff 1. On appeal, the Kerala High Court acknowledged Plaintiff 1 as Damodaran and Chiruthakutty’s son but, lacking evidence of a valid marriage, deemed him illegitimate, thus denying him a share in the property. The case then reached the Supreme Court.

What were the issues before the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court addressed whether Plaintiff 1 was a legitimate son of Damodaran and Chiruthakutty within wedlock and the status of children born from long cohabitation.

What are the relevant legal provisions in this case?

The case falls under Hindu family inheritance laws. Legal provisions include Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Order XX Rule 18). These laws presume marriage over concubinage in live-in relationships, emphasizing the advantage of long cohabitation. The Code of Civil Procedure was applied in issuing a preliminary decree.

How did the Supreme Court come to its conclusion?

The Supreme Court assessed Plaintiff 1’s rights, scrutinizing his claim for a share in the ancestral property. It focused on establishing the marriage status between Damodaran and Chiruthakutty. Citing legal precedents, the court held that long cohabitation creates a strong presumption of marriage, placing the burden on those contesting it. The voluminous evidence presented by Plaintiff 1, indicating extended cohabitation, was deemed sufficient. The Supreme Court concluded that Plaintiff 1 was legitimate, inheriting coparcenary rights.

What are the implications of this judgment?

The judgment clarifies legal ambiguities regarding the rights of illegitimate children. It signifies a significant stride in recognizing live-in relationships in India. The court emphasized the presumption of marriage in live-in relationships, bolstering the legitimacy claims of children born from such unions. While not the first such ruling, it aligns with previous decisions, reinforcing the rights of children born in live-in relationships. This case contributes to advancing the status of live-in relationships and upholding the rights of children in modern society.