In a ruling which might have a far reaching impact, Madras High Court has said if a couple in the right legal age indulge in sexual gratification, it will be considered a valid marriage and they could be termed as husband and wife.
"..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.
He said that marriage formalities of tying a mangalsutra, garlands and rings were only for the satisfaction of society.
Either party could approach a family court for declaration of marital status by producing documentary proof of a sexual relationship.
The judge also said once such a declaration is obtained, the couple can establish self as each others' spouse in any government records.
Justice Karnan made these observations in his order on Monday while modifying an April 2006 judgement of a family court in a maintenance case.
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.
The court said that if a 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."
The court said marriage formalities as per various religious customs such as the tying of a mangalsutra, the exchange of garlands and rings or the registering of a marriage were only to comply with religious customs for the satisfaction of society.
The court also said if after having a sexual relationship, the couple decided to separate due to difference of opinion, the 'husband' could not marry without getting a decree of divorce from the 'wife'.