In India, 'Marriage' is considered a sacred institution by which a legally
recognised union is formed. This very 'institution' is no exception with regard
to the evolution of the society concerned in various aspects. The line beginning
from bigamous marriages to monologues and to the current era of
live-in-relationships is evidentiary about the changes that the institution of
marriage is subjected to.
This article is an answer to the status of live-in relationships in India and
specifically the provision of maintenance in case the parties to such a
relationship get separated, which, while originating, was followed by a critical
Introduction to the Concept:
"A man is considered to have married a woman if they have been living together
as husband and wife for a reasonable period of time." � (Justice Malimath
Committee of the Supreme Court of India.)
The statement mentioned supra gives a clear idea of the concept of a Live-in
'Live-in-Relationship' refers to an arrangement formed by the consent of two
people who decide to live together for a certain period which might even lead to
a permanent extension, sharing an emotional bondage with one another on account
of the existence of a sexually intimate relationship. This term is usually
referred to 'unmarried couples'.
In simple terms, a live-in relationship refers to "Continuous cohabitation for a
significant period of time, between partners who are not married to each other
in a legally acceptable way and are sharing a common household."
The status of such a relationship was initially considered to be illegal in
India since British Rule. But the intensity of the status has been lowered in
major cities and towns but continues to be an unacceptable practice with the
same rigidity and even more conservative values in rural areas and certain
Over time, this practice has been bolstered by certain legal developments in
this regard, which, by way of 'constant efforts', have achieved its legality
status. The most important reform as a part of these developments is the
Maintenance for a Live-in Partner. The various reforms and developments in this
context are dealt with in detail in the following sections of the article.
Legal Framework of the Concept:
In the context of marriage, it would be apposite enough to refer to the
contemporary legal developments in this direction where live-in relationships
have been given legal recognition in India. Sometimes such relationships face a
taboo and are criticised widely in Indian society. Considering the unclear state
of this practice in India, the Honourable Apex Court of the land has made it
clear through many precedents on Live-in-Relationships.
Since the Privy Council, the presumption of the live-in-relationship concept has
begun. This fact can be seen in the case of Andrahennedige Dinohamy vs.
Wijetunge Liyanapatabendige Blahamy
, where the Privy Council took a stand in
favour of this practice and stated that "where a man and a lady are proved to
have lived together as spouses, the law will presume unless the opposite is
obviously demonstrated that they were living respectively in the result of a
legitimate marriage, and not in a condition of concubinage."
In the landmark case of Lata Singh vs. The State of U.P
(2006), the court
held that two consenting people of contrary sex living together in the same
household without marriage does not amount to any offence under the law.
Although there are no laws on live-in relationships, it has been made clear by
the Apex Court of India that the practice of such Live-in relationships between
couples cannot be considered illegal.
The Supreme Court of India, in the case of S. Khusboo vs. Kannaiammal & Anr
opined that "adults willingly engage in sexual relations outside the marital
setting, no statutory offence takes place unless it is adultery, as defined
under Section 497 of the IPC. The Court referred to its decision in Lata Singh
vs. State of U.P (2006) and reiterated that a live-in relationship between two
consenting adults of heterogenic sex did not amount to any offence (with the
obvious exception of adultery), even though it might be perceived as
A man and a woman living in relationships in the nature of marriage are recognised as husband and wife even in the absence of any formal/customary
; vide Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic
Violence Act, 2005.
Maintenance for a Live-in-Partner:
With the discussed precedents of the Supreme Court in the previous section, it
can be inferred that Live-in-Relationship is not recognised by the Hindu
Marriage Act, 1955 or any other Statutory Law, but the point to be noted is that
this act is not illegal in the eyes of the law.
The narrower interpretation of the term 'Wife' refers to "a Woman who is
legitimately wedded to a Man". This refers to the persons belonging to a legal
and valid marriage as recognised by the law of the land. In view of this
interpretation of the term, only those women who were legally married were in
the capacity to claim their rights as given under the Constitution of India.
the judicial developments in this regard of late have developed a broader
interpretation of the term 'Wife', which even includes those women who are
living with a man as spouses but are not legally married to one another; the
Supreme Court of India has held a similar decision in the case of Tulsa and Ors
vs. Durghatiya, Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation
A few of the Supreme Court judgements have witnessed the issue as to whether
expansive interpretation could be given to the terms "husband" and "wife" where
parties have been living together for a reasonably long period of time without
strict proof of marriage in compliance with the provisions of law. For instance,
"Ceremonies for a Hindu Marriage" under the HMA, 1955 enables the
solemnization of a Hindu Marriage in accordance with the procedures established
and duly acceptable by the law.
In view of the context stated supra, The National Commission for Women in the
year 2008 recommended to the Ministry of Women and Child Development that the
definition of 'Wife' in Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is
expanded to include women who live with their partners. The goal of the
recommendation was to harmonise the legal provisions dealing with equalising the
legal status of a live-in couple with that of a legally married couple.
The Malimath Committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India also brought up a
proposal to broaden the ambit of the definition of 'Wife' in the Criminal
Procedure Code by way of the new amendment to include 'a woman living with a man
as if she were his wife.'
This legal development implies that a woman in a live-in relationship with a man
is also entitled to "alimony" [Maintenance in the event of a divorce]. In the
landmark case of Chanmuniya vs. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha and Anr
paragraph 42 of the judgement says that-
"We are of the opinion that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given
in the term "wife" to include even those cases where a man and woman have been
living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time, and
strict proof of marriage should not be a precondition for maintenance under
Section 125 of CrPC, to fulfil the true spirit and essence of the beneficial
provision of maintenance under Section 125. We also believe that such an
interpretation would be a just application of the principles enshrined in the
Preamble to our Constitution, namely, social justice and upholding the dignity
of the individual."
The Madras High Court, in the case of M Palani vs. Meenakshi
, has held that
if a sexual relationship between a man and a woman is established, this would be
tantamount to their being married with the status of husband and wife. According
to CS Karnan J, legal aspects should be placed on a higher scale than customary
aspects and wedding solemnisation is only a customary rite and not a mandatory
In this case, the parties had been living together for a reasonably long
period of time and had two children, they were in full capacity to enter into a
marriage, and the father had duly signed on his child's birth reports and did
give consent for caesarean section for the birth. According to the court, the
parties had acquired the status of "husband" and "wife" in these circumstances.
In the case stated above, the revision petition was filed against the order of
the Family Court, which had directed the petitioner to provide maintenance to
the respondent in an application filed under Section 20, read with Section 26 of
the Domestic Violence Act. The arguments of the petitioner were that there
exists no conjugal relationship between them, nor did they live together at any
point, and hence there never existed a 'domestic relationship' between them.
Thus the respondent cannot be called as an 'aggrieved person' under Section 2(a)
of the Domestic Violence Act and therefore is not eligible to file an
application, thereby seeking maintenance.
The respondent argued that there was a
close and intimate relationship between the parties thereto, and thus the
petitioner is liable to maintain the respondent. The court, in this case,
considered the pleadings of the parties, and after a thorough examination of the
facts and evidence, the court held that the parties were in a close relationship
with each other which even included cohabitation with one another.
In the case of D. Velusamy vs. D.Patchaiammal
, it was observed by the
Supreme Court that a woman in a live-in relationship is not qualified for
maintenance unless she fulfils certain conditions. The most important
observation made by the apex court in this matter is that couples spending
weekends together or on a one-night stand wouldn't be considered being in a
relationship in the nature of marriage.
A bench comprising of T S Thakur and
Markandey Katju stated that a woman to get maintenance, if not married, must
fulfil FOUR MAIN CONDITIONS as mentioned in the following section of the
Conditions to be satisfied by a woman in a Live-in Relationship for claiming
The following are the conditions to be satisfied by a woman in a live-in
relationship so as to claim for maintenance in case of separation from their
- Such a couple must be of the legal age to marry.
- The couple must showcase themselves to society as to have been sharing a
bond similar to the nature of that of a legally married couple.
- They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage,
including being unmarried to each other.
- There must voluntarily have had sexual intercourse for a significant and
reasonable period of time.
The Court held that a 'relationship in the nature of marriage' under the
Domestic Violence Act (DV Act) of 2005 must fulfil the above-stated conditions,
and in addition, the parties must have lived together in a shared household as
defined In Section 2 (s) of the Act:
Shared Household means a household where the person aggrieved lives or at any
stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with the
respondent and includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either
jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or owned or tenanted by
either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent
or both jointly and singly have any right, title, interest or equity and
includes such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the
respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved
person has any right, title or interest in the shared household .
A child born out of a live-in relationship is entitled to maintenance under
Section 125 of CrPC akin to a woman partner in such a relationship. Such a child
arising out of such relationships is considered to be a legitimate child and is
entitled to receive maintenance from his/her father under the same section.
With reference to the condition stated above, in the landmark case of Champaben
vs. State of Gujarat
SCA/11087/2011. The petitioner and the respondent got into
a live-in relationship once the respondent promised to marry the petitioner. In
the course of the relationship, they had a baby together, which the respondent
refused to accept. Under Section 125 of CrPc, the petitioner sought maintenance
from her male partner for her child.
After certain appeals, the High Court gave
a judgement in favour of the petitioner and directed the respondent to pay the
amount of maintenance to the petitioner based on the order passed by the learned
magistrate of the bench within two months from the date of the decree.
For the claim of maintenance to be valid, the precondition that parties of
such a relationship shall not be legally married to some other person while
pursuing such a relationship, which in the first place would amount to an
offence relating to marriage as per the respective provisions under the Indian
Penal Code, and such a relationship will be considered null and void.
Conclusion to the Concept:
Considering all the discussed facts, it can be said that despite the reforms in
the context of live-in relationships and the legality of such relationships in
India, this yet continues to be a sensitive change that waits for a time wherein
all the people adapt and accept this practice in entirety. The judiciary has
taken a tough stand in this regard, protecting this practice from landing on the
The ambit of the developments in this context extends to the provision of
maintenance for a live-in partner, as mentioned earlier. Section � 125 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure has clearly specified the duty to provide maintenance
to a wife/ minor children/ old age parents with a bona fide thought to avoid
indigence and a piteous state of homelessness.
The Supreme Court of India took a
wise stand in this regard; instead of adding a special provision for the
Maintenance of a Live-in partner as an extension to Section - 125 of the Code of
Criminal Procedure, it was decided to broaden the scope of the definition of the
term 'Wife' such that the rules applicable to the live-in partners would be akin
to that of a legally married couple.
Though the very fact is that for a major change, especially in the case of a
social norm like the adoption of the Western concept of Live-in relationship and
the concerned aspect of the provision of 'maintenance' for a Live-in partner in
a country like India which has a rich culture and varied heritage imbibed in its
National Pledge, it is just the question of time and hope for this practice to
achieve a complete status of acceptance in this land where morality is the first
priority, irrespective of this fact, this practice has received the due support
from the Law of the Land eventually executed by the Apex Court of the Nation in
various relevant cases.
List Of Acronyms And Abbreviations:
||Hindu Marriage Act
||Code of Criminal Procedure
||Indian Penal Code
||All India Reporter
||Supreme Court Reports
||Supreme Court Cases
||Special Civil Application
- A. Dinohamy vs. W. L. Blahamy AIR 1927 PC 185
- Lata Singh vs. The State of U.P (2006) 5 SCC 600 (India)
- S. Khusboo vs Kannaiammal & Anr (2010) 5 SCC 600 (India)
- V Venaktesan, 'Objection Overruled', Frontline, <https://frontline-thehindu-com.cdn.ampproject.org/> accessed on 19 November 2022.
- S.2, The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- Tulsa vs. Durghatiya, Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation (1978) AIR 1557, 1979 SCR (1) 1
- S.7, The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
- Chanmuniya vs. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha and Anr. (2011) 1 SCC, 141.
- M Palani vs. Meenakshi, AIR 2008 Mad 162
- D. Velusamy vs. D.Patchaiammal (2010) 10 SCC 469
Written By: Amuktha Malyada Gudla,
BBA LLB (Hons.)
School of Law, GITAM University