September 28, 2021

Live-In Relationship: A Threat to Society or Not?

Family Law

Introduction

India is a developing country, where people in this modern era are opening their minds and having a positive opinion over pre marital sex and live in relationship. With the long history of diverse cultures and norms, it is difficult for the society to accept the concept of live in relationship. Indian society has had always been a strong advocate of institution called marriage. Marriage is a sacramental institution in our society.  Every society from old aged era to modern era has had the institution of marriage. Marriage is also called Universal institution. Unlike marriage, live in relationship is highly criticized and continuously targeted because in this two people live under the same roof that resembles to marriage but not married. In another words, it is a form of cohabitation.

Indian conventional society finds it difficult to accept this relation. They consider marriage as a “sacred” institution, creating a sense of responsibility and duty towards the society. The reason why people are choosing live in relationship is to check their compatibility with each other before getting legally married. It helps them to avoid chaos family drama and lengthy court procedures for break-up. There is an increase in number of people choosing for live in relationship, even as a perpetual plan, over marriage. This helps people to choose between “ I DO or DO I ?” . With time many incidents have been reported and seen where partners in live-in relationships or a child born out of such relationship have remained vulnerable for the very simple reason that such relationships have been kept outside the realm of law. There has been gross misuse by the partners in live-in relationships since they do not have any duties and responsibilities to perform.

 Legal status of live in relationship

 The court has passed so many precedents in favor of the couples and sets up judicial trends of giving legal recognition to live-in relationships. In the case of  Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation (1978), Supreme Court for the 1st time considered live-in relationships valid. The SC in so many of its judgments has stated that if a man & a woman “lived like husband & wife” in a long-term relationship & even had children, the judiciary would presume that the 2 were married & same laws would be applicable.

In the case of Kamini Devi v State of Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court granted protection to the couple who were living together stating that an arrangement between two consenting adults was not an offence and that nobody was allowed to interfere in their peaceful living which would violate their right to life that was guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. According to the division bench: When a boy and a girl have attained the age of majority and have decided to live together out of free will, nobody including their own parents have the right to interfere in their living conditions.

In landmark case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal[1], the Supreme Court held that a living relationship comes within the ambit of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Court further held that live-in relationships are permissible and the act of two major living together cannot be considered illegal or unlawful.

In Chanmuniya v. Chanmuniya Kumar Singh Kushwaha[2] where High Court declared that appellant wife is not entitled to maintenance on the ground that only legally married woman can claim maintenance under Section 125 CrPC. But the Supreme Court turned down the judgment delivered by the High Court and awarded maintenance to the wife (appellant) saying that provisions of Section 125 CrPC must be considered in the light of Section 26 of the Pwdva, 2005. [3] The Supreme Court held that women in live-in relationships are equally entitled to all the claims and reliefs which are available to a legally wedded wife [4]

 

Live-in relationship, not acceptable- Punjab and Haryana High Court (latest judgment)

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, in a recent judgment on 12th May 2021, dismissed a plea-protection filed by a young live-in couple that had moved the court after facing threats from the girl’s family, while noting that “if such protection as claimed is granted, the entire social fabric of the society would get disturbed.”

Facts of the case are as following -the 18-year-old woman along with her companion, who is aged 21, mentioned in their petition that the woman’s parents opposed their marriage and the family forced her to marry a man of their own choice. This made the couple elope and they were living together for the past one year. Having failed to secure protection from the police, they approached the court to resolve their grievances.The bench of Justice Madaan, after hearing the matter, observed that the petitioners were seeking approval of their live-in relationship under the garb of filing the petition, which is socially and morally unacceptable. Hence, he dismissed the petition stating that no protection order in the petition can be passed.The counsel for petitioner, Advocate J.S. Thakur said that the girl was 19 years old and the boy was 22 years old and both of them intended on marrying each other. However, due to some document, like the Aadhar card being in possession of the girl’s family, they could not get married. As the Supreme Court has already upheld the live-in relationship, the counsel of petitioners approached the High Court to seek protection of life and liberty till they get married.

In another Bench of the High Court headed by Justice Kshetarpal, noted that if protection to a runaway couple in a “live-in relationship” is granted, the “social fabric of the society would get disturbed.” 

The High Court bench, while refusing to grant protection to the couple, observed that Petitioner 1 (girl) is barely 18 years old whereas Petitioner 2 (boy) is 21 years old. They have been residing together in a live-in relationship and are claiming for protection of their life and liberty from the girl’s relatives.

Live-in Relationship and Law in India

There is an unverified connection to the legal status of live in relationship in India. There is no specific law or enactment made particularly for the welfare of couples who choose to live in together. Although there are judgments and amendments made for the protection of couples or child born. These judicial interpretation has clarified the concept of live in together and granted few rights by amendments in the legislature.

i) Domestic Violence Act, 2005-

1st law that covered relations “in the nature of marriage” & has provided legal recognition to relations outside marriage.

Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 defines:

Domestic relationship means a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.[5]

ii) Section 125 of the CrPC-

Legal right of maintenance to female partners in or out of a marriage.

… Section 125 CrPC was incorporated in order to avoid vagrancy and destitution for a wife/minor children/old age parents, and the same has now been extended by judicial interpretation to partners of a live-in relationship.[6]

iii) Evidence Act, 1872

The court may presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have happened, regard being given to the common course of natural events, human conduct and public and private business, in a relation as to the facts of the particular case. Therefore, where a man and a lady live respectively for a long spell of time as a couple then there would be an assumption of marriage.[7]

iv) Inheritance rights

These rights have been granted to children born out of a live-in relationship in both ancestral & self-bought properties.The first time when the Supreme Court held the legitimacy of children born out of live-in relationship was in S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan[8], the Supreme Court had said, “If a man and woman are living under the same roof and cohabiting for some years, there will be a presumption under Section 114 of the Evidence Act that they live as husband and wife and the children born to them will not be illegitimate.”[9]

v) Governing the Adoption of Children.

Live-in couples are not allowed to adopt kids as per the Guidelines.

Conclusion

Indian societal framework is devised in such a  way that live in relationship is a debatable topic. Courts through various judgments and case laws helped to get a picture of legal status, but there is a need of codification or an urgent need of rules and regulation for this kind of relationship. Still India has not legalised it, legalising means having special legislation for it. As of now, there is no legislation or statute that specifically governs matters related to succession, maintenance, guardianship in regards to live-in relationships.

In authors’ view, live in relationship is not a threat to the society. There must be a specific legislature or statue dealing with the current issues so that rights of living partners, children born out of such relationships and all those people who are likely to get affected by such relationship should be protected. Not all live-in relationships should be given legal status, but only those which fulfill basic requirements. Also there should be awareness among live-in  couples regarding the legal consequences arising out of such living arrangement.


[1]  (2010) 5 SCC 600.

[2] (2011) 1 SCC 141.

[3] Ibid, para 39.

[4] (2011) 1 SCC 38, para 38.

[5] S. 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

[6] Ajay Bhardwaj v. Jyotsna, 2016 SCC OnLine P&H 9707.

[7] S. 114 of the Evidence Act, 1872.

[8] (1994) 1 SCC 460 : AIR 1994 SC 133.

[9] Ibid.

Author- Chinnu Maria Antony

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