What is Nata Vivah

According to this custom, in some tribes the woman (wife) can leave her husband and live with another man. This is called Nata. No formal rituals have to be done in this. There is only mutual consent. This practice is prevalent even today in many tribal communities in Rajasthan. This practice is quite similar to the live-in relationship of the modern society. It is said that Nata Pratha was created to give recognition to widows and abandoned women to lead a social life, which is still believed today.

Under this system, no formal marriage ceremony is required to live together. Couple can perform all obligations of husband and wife without entering into wedlock. According to the practice, man has to pay money to live a modern day live-in relationship with a woman of his choice, after the woman’s first husband walks out of the marriage and pass on his wife to other man in return for money. This money, the “bride price” is fixed by members of the community, or middlemen, who may receive a cut for doing so. The sum may range from a few thousand bucks to even a few lakhs depending upon the paying capacity of the person concerned.[i]

For ex. If a man wants to live with a woman who is already married than he has to pay some amount of money to the woman’s husband. After satisfied with the amount the husband of the woman releases her and then the lady can live with the other man who paid the price. This is called Nata.

The problem that arises in Nata cases is that of Maintenance. Since the woman has left her legally wedded husband and started to live with another man, is she entitled to claim maintenance from him?

Introduction-Object and Scope of Section 125 CrPC

There are different statutes providing for making an application for grant of maintenance/ interim maintenance, if any person having sufficient means neglects, or refuses to maintain his wife, children, parents. The different enactments provide an independent and distinct remedy framed with a specific object and purpose. Maintenance laws have been enacted as a measure of social justice to provide recourse to dependant wives and children for their financial support, so as to prevent them from falling into destitution and vagrancy.

Article 15(3) of the Constitution[ii] of India provides that: “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.” Article 15 (3) reinforced by Article 39 of the Constitution of India[iii], which envisages a positive role for the State in fostering change towards the empowerment of women, led to the enactment of various legislations from time to time.

Justice Krishna Iyer in his judgment in Captain Ramesh Chander Kaushal v Mrs. Veena Kaushal & Ors[iv]. held that the object of maintenance laws is:

“9. This provision is a measure of social justice and specially enacted to protect women and children and falls within the constitutional sweep of Article 15(3) reinforced by Article 39. We have no doubt that sections of statutes calling for construction by courts are not petrified print but vibrant words with social functions to fulfil. The brooding presence of the constitutional empathy for the weaker sections like women and children must inform interpretation if it has to have social relevance. So viewed, it is possible to be selective in picking out that interpretation out of two alternatives which advances the cause- the cause of the derelicts.”

The legislations which have been framed on the issue of maintenance are the Special Marriage Act 1954 (“SMA”), Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. 1973; and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (“D.V. Act”) which provide a statutory remedy to women, irrespective of the religious community to which they belong, apart from the personal laws applicable to various religious communities.

In Badshah v Urmila Badshah Godse[v], the Supreme Court was considering the interpretation of Section 125 CrPC. The Court held:

“13.3. …purposive interpretation needs to be given to the provisions of Section 125 CrPC. While dealing with the application of a destitute wife or hapless children or parents under this provision, the Court is dealing with the marginalised sections of the society. The purpose is to achieve “social justice” which is the constitutional vision, enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India. The Preamble to the Constitution of India clearly signals that we have chosen the democratic path under the rule of law to achieve the goal of securing for all its citizens, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. It specifically highlights achieving their social justice. Therefore, it becomes the bounden duty of the courts to advance the cause of the social justice. While giving interpretation to a particular provision, the court is supposed to bridge the gap between the law and society.”