Nov 19, 2020

Concept of marriage in Indian society is prevalent from the Vedic period. It is considered as a sacred bond between two individuals and also a relation for seven lifetimes but changes being the most important factor in everything is also working in this aspect of life. New generation giving more priority to their freedom and work upon everything else from where evolved the concept of live-in relationships and is adopted by numerous couples around the world and is a relationship where two people cohabit outside marriage without any legal relationship towards each other. This concept has also paved its way in Indian society, and it can be immoral in it, but it is not illegal. The basic difference between marriage and live-in relationship is that marriage is a wedlock which is socially and ritually recognized and creates certain rights and obligations. Marriage is governed by different laws based on the religion a person belongs to. Whereas live-in relationship is said to be in the nature of marriage where two people live in a shared household without marriage and are without any obligation or duty towards each other. There is as such no law governing the concept of live-in relationship in India with no legal definition of the term live-in relationship and is an unsubstantiated one.

Live-in relationship and law in India

There is no such law specifically made for a live-in relationship. There is no legal definition to it, nor are there any rights and obligations entrusted upon parties to such kind of relationship. However, there are several incidents where existing regulation is misused. With several issues coming out of this model being present in society, this topic is getting into the limelight. There are several cases in which the Judiciary has given some clarity about this concept of live-in relationship by amending and interpreting existing legislation in a way to prevent the misuse of these legislations. Legislations used by courts to give these decisions are: 

Domestic Violence Act, 2005 as for the very first time the legislature has given protection and rights to females who are not legally married. As the act does not define such a live-in relationship, but it is left open to the courts to interpret it according to the facts and circumstances of the case. 

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 there is some ambiguity in the definition of the word "wife", used under section 125 which provides provision for maintenance to the wife. 

Judicial response to Live-in relationships

As discussed above also there is no specific legislation concerning the live-in relationships. Still, Indian Judiciary has performed their part very well and time and again tried to fill the gap in the absence of any legislation. This concept is termed as immoral in Indian society. Still, it is not illegal in Indian society, so Judiciary has tried its best to prevent the misuse of existing legislation and provide justice best to their knowledge as per available legislations. We can see several case laws related to it.

The Supreme Court decided it in Lata Singh v. State of U.P. that live-in relationship is permissible only in the major unmarried person of heterosexual sex. It was also observed by the Supreme Court in another case that live-in relationships, if continued for such a long time, cannot be termed as walk in and walk out relationship. There is a presumption of marriage between them.

In the case of D. Veluswamy v D. Patchaimmal it was held a woman in a live-in relationship is not entitled to maintenance unless she fulfils certain considerations, and this essential condition to get maintenance are: 

  • The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.
  • They must be of legal age to marry.
  • They must be otherwise qualified to enter a legal marriage.
  • They must be voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period.

Even number of times in several cases has talked about the constitutional provision which also in a way gives backing to this type of concept and does not term it as illegal as in case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal; the Court observed that, while it is true that the mainstream view in our society is that sexual contact should take place only between marital partners, there is no statutory offence that takes place when adults willingly engage in sexual relations outside the marital setting. Though an obiter dictum this case has provided a positive impetus to the live-in relationship in India.

Another latest judgment about an aspect of live-in relationship is that of Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma observed that in the case of live-in relationship, denial of any protection would amount to a great injustice to victims of illegal relationships. The Supreme Court also requested parliament to form legislation based on certain guidelines provided by it to protect the victim of live-in relationships and also to curb societal wrongs concerned with the concept. Various directions given by the Supreme Court are: 

  • Duration of Period of Relationship
  • Shared household
  • The pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements
  • Domestics arrangements
  • Sexual Relationship
  • Children
  • Socialization in Public
  • Intention and conducts of the parties

Based on all this discussion, we can say that this concept needs the focus and time of legislature to provide society with particular legislation dealing with the matter and prevents the misuse of the existing legislation. We should praise and thank the Judiciary as it has made decisions time and again for the betterment of the society and prevent the society from wrongs, whether in respect of anyone from the two in a relationship.