In a landmark order, the Civil Judge, Senior Division, Imphal East, in Manipur has directed a woman to pay Rs.70 lakh as compensation to the legal wife of a man with whom she has been in a live-in relationship.
The court ordered Yambem Puni, a well-known model, to pay Dr Ranjita Achom, the legal wife of Dr. Konsam Shyamsunder, a monetary compensation of Rs.10 lakh for “causing loss of consortium, nervous shock and also for causing mental distress”; another Rs.10 lakh for “lowering the reputation of the legal wife” in the eyes of the society, and a monetary compensation of Rs.50 lakh for “punitive or exemplary damages.”
Dr Ranjita and Dr Shyamsunder had been in an affair which culminated in their marriage in 2009. The marriage was registered at the registrar of marriage. The couple has three children. Dr Ranjita (41) is a doctor attached to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal while Dr Shyamsunder is a promoted IAS who works under the Manipur government.
Dr Ranjita had moved the court alleging that the 33-year-old model, who is serving as the panchayat secretary in RD & PR department, had maintained an “illicit” relationship with Dr Shyamsunder, thus causing untold distress.
The court’s observation was that the intentional tort of causing the loss of consortium is still governed by the common law and not by any enacted or statutory law in India. Viewing the case as unique, the court said it was a suit filed against a woman living with the husband of a legally-married woman. Dr Ranjita had sought a compensation of Rs.10 crore for the damages caused and a permanent injunction against the woman for “causing loss of consortium, and mental agony”.
Yambem Puni submitted that she was the second wife of Dr Shyamsunder following their “Loukhatpa ceremony” (it recognises the unsolemnised union of husband and wife) in 2016 but the court observed that she “cannot be given the status of second wife” as per the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955.
Referring to a case of 2013 in the Supreme Court, the Civil Judge said, “Live-in relationship with a married person amounts to intentionally alienating one spouse from the other – it is an important tort – wife and children of the married party can sue the other party to relationship for damages”.
The judge said Yambem Puni’s live-in relationship with the IAS officer was a case of committing the offence of bigamy.
Observing that there was no specific formula in India to compute the quantum of compensation with regard to intentional torts concerning extra-marital or live-in relationship, Judge Somorjit Singh directed Ms. Puni to pay ₹70 lakh to the aggrieved legal wife.