Read Order: Pooja Rani v. State of Punjab and others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, February 22, 2022: While allowing the protection plea of a woman who was living in a ‘live-in-relationship’ with her male friend after leaving her matrimonial home owing to physical harassment caused to her by her husband with whom divorce was yet to be taken, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the protection of life and liberty is a basic feature of the Constitution of India. 

The Bench of Justice Vikas Bahl added further, “Every person, more so, a major, has the right to live his / her life with a person of his / her choice at any rate, whenever this Court, prima-facie, is satisfied that on account of some relatives/ persons being unhappy with the relationship between the petitioners, could cause harm to the life and liberty of the petitioners, then in such circumstances, the Courts are required to pass necessary directions for their protection.”

Here, in the case at hand, the Court was called upon to decide a Criminal Writ Petition under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India seeking directions to the official respondents to protect the life and liberty of the petitioner and her friend (Gurmeet Singh).

The crux of the petitioner’s case was that she was married to the fourth respondent in 2019, however, because of his habit of consuming alcohol and of physically subjecting the petitioner to violence, she left her matrimonial home and started living with her friend Gurmeet Singh, who solely helped her with the transition. But, the private respondents stormed into the house of Gurmeet Singh and threatened him and the petitioner with dire consequences. Thus, they sought protection. However, their representation before Police was not answered, hence the High Court was approached. 

The petitioner’s counsel cited the decision of the Division Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court in Ishrat Bano and another v. State of Punjab and others, LPA-769-2021 to contend that even in case the petitioner and her friend Gurmeet Singh were not divorced from their respective spouses, and were living in a “live-in relationship” with mutual consent, they had a right to protection of their life and liberty, both of them being adults. 

At the outset, the Court made reference to the decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in Pardeep Singh and another v. State of Haryana and others, CRWP-4521-2021 to state that even if the petitioners were living in a “Live in Relationship”, they were entitled to the protection of their life and liberty. 

Further, on the issue of the petitioner not having obtained a divorce decree in her earlier marriage which was subsisting, the case referred Ishrat Bano’s Case (supra) wherein the Division, after observing that the aspect of protection of life and liberty was of paramount consideration and without getting into the issue as to whether the relationship between the parties was legal or not, regardless of the criminal case registered against the parties, granted protection to them. 

Therefore, keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case and without commenting upon the legality of the relationship, the Court directed the official respondent to consider the representation of the petitioner and take appropriate action in accordance with law after assessing the threat perception to the petitioner. 

It was also clarified that the State was not debarred from proceeding against the petitioner and her friend if they were involved in any other case. 

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