Essay on Concubinage (527 Words)

The concept of avarudha stri under the old Hindu Law is not recognized under the Hindu codified law. Today, a concubine does not enjoy any legal right to claim maintenance from the property of her paramour.

Generally, only men of high economic and social status had concubines. Many historical rulers maintained concubines as well as wives. Historically, concubinage was frequently voluntary (by the woman and/or her family’s arrangement), as it provided a measure of economic security to the woman.

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It has also been settled through a series of cases (as for instance, Khemkor v. Umiashankar (1873) Bom. H.C.R. 831, Vrandavandas Ramdas v. Yamunabai (1875) 12 Bom. H.C.R. 229, Yashvantrav v. Kashibai (1887) 12 Bom. 26), that in certain circumstances, concubines have a right to maintenance.

A concubine has, however, no claim for maintenance against her paramour during his lifetime and the right arises only after his death, if the woman’s relationship with him has been continuous and exclusive.

In an old case, Ramanarasu v. Buchamma (1899) 23 Mad. 282, the Court observed: “On the authority of certain texts of Hindu Law, the courts have no doubt allowed this claim in the case of concubines kept continuously by the deceased upto the time of his death. Whether the foundation of this rule was the notion that the man was under a moral obligation to take care that his concubine should not be left destitute after his death, and therefore saddled the succession to his property with the liability to maintain her, or whether it was with reference to his probable wishes and intention with regard to her, it is not necessary to determine.”

In Venkatasami Pillay v. Krishnamma [(1895) 18 Mysore 131], a gift to a concubine in consideration of future cohabitation was held to be invalid, as the consideration was immoral.

In earlier times, it was believed that, to claim any right, such a woman should live in the family home of her paramour. However, in a landmark case (Nagabai v. Monghi Bai, AIR 1926 PC 73), the Privy Council held that a woman is considered a concubine, if she is an exclusively kept mistress of her paramour and the court dismissed any requirement for her to be living in the family house of her paramour.

After the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, under S. 3 thereof, only legitimate relationships are recognized for the purpose of succession and inheritance. However, the right of illegitimate children to succeed to their mother’s property has been preserved and recognised. This is covered by the provision in the said section which lays down that illegitimate children shall be deemed to be related to their mother and to one another.

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