Traditionally, the Indian society might have frowned upon live-in
relationships. But the growing number of such couples indicates a degree of
acceptance. Women, however, are still the losers.
In the current run of time the wonderful incident that we see is human
beings are gradually getting conscious of their rights inclusive of the
rights of relationships. Apart from all other shreds of struggle for rights,
the said rights of conjugal relation or conjugality are menacing in the
event of contemporary trend of increasing conjugal disloyalty and
The run does not remain so smooth sailing merely when it casts
the look of a passion or frenzy or a mania. As human animals are relatively
more ingenious than other species they seek to take advantage of every
relationship they inherit and every other relationship they acquire
socio-culturally: approved or incestuous. A relationship of a man with a
woman in legal parlance is legitimate if is based on proper marriage and
illegitimate if not as per Marriage Laws.
Legal Status of Female Live-in-Partners and Judicial Approach
The partner of a live-in relationship was first time accorded protection by
the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which considers
females who are not formally married, but are living with a male person in a
relationship, which is in the nature of marriage, also akin to wife, though
not equivalent to wife.
The Supreme Court in D. Veluswamy v. D.
 has opined that the Parliament has drawn a distinction
between the relationship of marriage and the relationship in the nature of
marriage, and has provided that in either case the person is entitled to
benefits under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
A live-in-relationship constitutes a distinct class from marriage. The
question of legitimacy of child is also directly related to protection of
women. On this point apex court in Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant
said, “The courts have consistently held that the law presumes in favour of
marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited
continuously for a number of years.
Definition Of Alimony Under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
Permanent alimony and maintenance:
(1) Any court exercising jurisdiction under this Act may, at the time of
passing any decree or at any time subsequent thereto, on application made to
it for the purpose by either the wife or the husband, as the case may be,
order that the respondent shall pay to the applicant for her or his
maintenance and support such gross sum or such monthly or periodical sum for
a term not exceeding the life of the applicant as, having regard to the
respondent's own income and other property, if any, the income and other
property of the applicant , the conduct of the parties and other
circumstances of the case, it may seem to the court to be just, and any such
payment may be secured, if necessary, by a charge on the immovable property
of the respondent…
Meaning Of Live-In Relationship Under Law
The live- in-relationship
is a living arrangement in which an un-married
couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage.
The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 does not recognise live-in-relationship
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA) on the other
hand for the purpose of providing protection and maintenance to women says
that an aggrieved live-in partner may be granted alimony under the Act.
'Live-in-relationship' is a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple
lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. There
is no marriage between the parties, in the sense of solemnization of a
marriage under any law. It is a contract of living together which is
renewed every day by the parties and can be terminated by either of the
parties without the consent of the other party and one party can walk out at
will at any time. Thus, people who choose to have live-in relationship
cannot complain of infidelity or immorality.
“Merely spending weekends together or a one-night stand would not make it a
” said a bench of Justices Markandey Katju and T.S.
Thakur, cautioning that in future, claims for financial relief arising out
of live-in link-ups would increase in India.
The Supreme Court of India has noted that just any live-in relationship
does not entitle a woman to
alimony. To make a 'live-in' legal the Supreme Court says that 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 into a
legal marriage, including being unmarried; and they must have voluntarily
cohabited for a significant period of time. Making an attempt to iron out
certain ambiguous situations, the judges also said that if a man has a
whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose
and/or as a servant it would not, in our opinion, be a relationship “in the
nature of marriage.”
'The idea of live-in-relationships may seem to be unique and appealing but
in reality the problems likely to arise are many and challenging. The status
of the women in such relationship is not that of a wife and lacks social
approval or sanctity.
Increase in litigation on matters pertaining to
maintenance, legitimacy of children, inheritance etc is another area of
On October 21, 2010 a Two-Judge Bench of Supreme Court comprising Justices
Markandey Katju and TS Thakur in D Veluswamy v. D Patchaiammal
that in their opinion not all live-in relationships will amount to a
relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of the PWDVA,
Merely spending weekends together or a one-night stand would not make it a
“domestic relationship.” If a man has a “keep” whom he maintains financially
and uses mainly for sexual purposes and/or as a servant it would not, in our
opinion, be a relationship in the nature of marriage. No doubt, the view we
are taking would exclude many women who have a live-in relationship from the
benefit of the PWDVA Act, but then it is not for this court to legislate or
amend the law. Parliament has used the expression “relationship in the
nature of marriage” and not “live in relationship”.
In June, 2008, it was recommended by the National Commission for Women to
the Ministry of Women and Child Development to include live-in female
partners for the right of maintenance under Section 125 of Criminal
Procedure Code, 1973. The view was also supported by the judgment in Abhijit
Bhikaseth Auti v. State of Maharashtra and Others.
Case Study Of D Veluswamy v/s D Patchaiammal
Deciding Authority: Supreme Court of India
Name of the Judges: Justice Markandey Katju, Justice T.S. Thakur
Date of Judgement: October 21, 2010
Facts of the Case: The appellant alleged that he was married according to
the Hindu Customary Rites with one Lakshmi on 25.6.1980. Their male child
was born, who was studying in an Engineering college at Ooty. The petitioner
was working as a Secondary Teacher.
The respondent-D. Patchaiammal filed a
petition under Section 125 Cr.P.C.in the year 2001 before the Family
Court at Coimbatore in which she alleged that she was married to the
appellant herein on 14.9.1986 and since then the appellant and she lived
together in her father's house for two or three years.
It was alleged in the
petition that after two or three years the appellant left the house of the
respondent's father and started living in his native place, but would visit
the respondent occasionally. It was alleged that the appellant deserted the
respondent herein (petitioner in the proceeding under Section 125 Cr.P.C.)
two or three years after marrying her in 1986. She alleged that she did not
have any kind of livelihood and she is unable to maintain herself. Hence, it
was prayed that the appellant be directed to pay Rs.500/- per month as
maintenance to the petitioner.
In his counter affidavit filed by the appellant herein before the Family
Court, Coimbatore, it was alleged that appellant was married to one Lakshmi
on 25.6.1980 as per the Hindu Marriage rites and customs and he had a male
child, who is studying in C.S.I. Engineering college at Ooty. To prove his
marriage with Lakshmi the appellant produced the ration card, voter's
identity card of his wife, transfer certificate of his son, discharge
certificate of his wife Lakshmi from hospital, photographs of the wedding,
Issue: The learned Family Court Judge held that the appellant was married to
the respondent and not to Lakshmi. These findings have been upheld by the
High Court in the impugned judgment. Aggrieved by the judgment, the
appellant approached the Supreme Court.
Judgement: It was observed that Section 125 Cr.P.C. provides for giving
maintenance to the wife and some other relatives. The word 'wife' has been
defined as “Wife includes a woman who has been divorced by, or has obtained
a divorce from, her husband and has not remarried.”
Decision: The High Court and the learned Family Court Judge erred in law in
holding that the appellant was not married to Lakshmi without even issuing
notice to Lakshmi. The question whether the appellant was married to the
respondent or not can be decided only after the aforesaid finding. Appeals
The judgment determined certain pre-requisites for a live in relationship to
be considered valid. It provides that The couple must hold themselves out to
society as being akin to spouses and must be of legal age to marry or
qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried. It was
stated that the couple must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves
out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.
The court held that not all relationships will amount to a relationship in
the nature of marriage and get the benefit of the Domestic Violence Act. It
further clarified that, if a man keeps women as a servant and maintains her
financially and uses mainly for sexual purposes, such relationship would not
be considered as marriage in the court of law. Therefore to get such benefit
the conditions mentioned by the Court must be satisfied, and has to be
proved by evidence.
In the landmark judgment Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V.Sarma
The recent judgment of the Supreme Court has illustrated five categories
where the concept of live in relationships can be considered and proved in
the court of law.
Following are the categories:
- Domestic relationship between an adult male and an adult female,
both unmarried. It is the most uncomplicated sort of relationship
- Domestic relationship between a married man and an adult unmarried
woman, entered knowingly.
- Domestic relationship between an adult unmarried man and a married
woman, entered knowingly. Such relationship can lead to a conviction
under Indian Penal Code for the crime of adultery
- Domestic relationship between an unmarried adult female and a
married male, entered unknowingly
- Domestic relationship between same sex partners ( gay or lesbian)
The Court stated that such relationship may endure for a long time and can
result pattern of dependency and vulnerability, and increasing number of
such relationships, calls for adequate and effective protection, especially
to the woman and children born out of that live-in-relationship.
Legislature, of course, cannot promote pre-marital sex, though, at times,
such relationships are intensively personal and people may express their
opinion, for and against.
In Vimala v. Veeraswamy
, this Court held that Section 125 of the Code
of 1973 is meant to achieve a social purpose and the object is to prevent
vagrancy and destitution. When an attempt is made by the husband to negative
the claim of the neglected wife depicting her as a kept-mistress on the
specious plea that he was already married, the court would insist on strict
proof of the earlier marriage.
The woman not having the legal status of a
wife is thus brought within the inclusive definition of the term wife
consistent with the objective. However, under the law a second wife whose
marriage is void on account of the survival of the first marriage is not a
legally wedded wife, and is, therefore, not entitled to maintenance under
In a subsequent decision of this Court in Savitaben Somabhat Bhatiya v.
State of Gujarat and others
, this Court held that however desirable it
may be to take note of the plight of an unfortunate woman, who unwittingly
enters into wedlock with a married man, there is no scope to include a woman
not lawfully married within the expression of 'wife'. The Bench held that
this inadequacy in law can be amended only by the Legislature.
In the instant case, Lakshmi was not married to the appellant it cannot be
said at this stage that the respondent herein is the wife of the appellant.
A divorced wife is treated as a wife for the purpose of Section 125 Cr.P.C.
But if a person has not even been married obviously that person could not be
divorced. Hence the respondent herein cannot claim to be the wife of the
appellant herein, unless it is established that the appellant was not
married to Lakshmi.
However, the question has also to be examined from the point of view of The
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.In the expression
'domestic relationship' includes not only the relationship of marriage but
also a relationship in the nature of marriage
The question, therefore,
arises as to what is the meaning of the expression 'a relationship in the
nature of marriage'. Unfortunately this expression has not been defined in
the Act. Since there is no direct decision of this Court on the
interpretation of this expression we think it necessary to interpret it
because a large number of cases will be coming up before the Courts in our
country on this point, and hence an authoritative decision is required.
Ratio: In the aforesaid Act of 2005 Parliament had taken notice of a new
social phenomenon which has emerged in our country known as live-in
relationship. This new relationship is still rare in our country, and is
sometimes found in big urban cities in India. If a man has a 'keep' whom he
maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and/or as a servant
it would not, in our opinion, be a relationship in the nature of marriage'.
Merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a
Thus, the legal status of live-in relationships in India has been evolved
and determined by the Supreme Court in its various judgments. However, there
is no separate legislation which lays down the provisions of live in
relationships and provides legality to this concept. Though the concept of
live-in relationship is considered immoral by the society, but is definitely
not illegal in the eyes of the law. The Supreme Court states that living
together is a right to life and therefore it cannot be held illegal.
The court has also tried to improve the conditions of the women and children
borne out of live in relationships by defining their status under the
Domestic Violence Act, 2005 if the relationship is proved to be “relationship
in the nature of marriage
In a recent case of May 5th, 2015, the Supreme Court bench of Justices
Vikramajit Sen and A M Sapre, dismissed a petition by the petitioner 'Z'
who worked in the Bollywood and contended that the respondent could not
claim the status of a wife to be legally entitled to get maintenance under
the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
The Court held that cohabitation of a couple would give rise to the
presumption of a valid marriage and if a live in relationship breaks down,
the man is bound to pay maintenance to the women.
Thus the Parliament has to ponder over these issues, bring in proper
legislation or make a proper amendment of the Act, so that women and the
children, born out of such kinds of relationships are protected, though such
relationship might not be a relationship in the nature of a marriage.
In the absence of legislative framework in relation to relevant subject
matter people may get confused due to different approaches of courts. The
attempt by judges to fill the vacuum in law sometimes leads to
arbitrariness, uncertainty and non-uniform application of law.
The need of the present hour is not to try bringing live-in relationships
under the ambit of any existing law but to enact a new different law which
would look into the matter of live-in separately and would grant rights and
obligations on the part of the couples.
In the end of the research study, the researcher has made the situation
clear that if the above mentioned conditions are being fulfilled the women
under live-in relationships cam get the alimony.
- Posted in Crime Against Women, Domestic Violence, Live In
Relationship, Marriage Laws By Nnlrj India on December 20, 2010 accessed
- See Section2(f) Domestic Violence Act 2005
- Madan Mohan Singh vs Rajni Kant, 9 SCC, 209(2010)
- Swarupa N. Dholam, Socio-Legal Dimensions of Live-In Relationship in
India, Maharashtra Judicial Academy, 2(July 25, 2015), http://mja.gov.in/Site/…/final%20article%20in%20both%20lanuage%20(1).pdf
- Alok Kumar v. State and Another, Crl.M.C. No. 299/2009 (Order dated
- Infra 5
- Supra 8
- D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal (2010) 10 SCC 469
- Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State Of Maharashtra and Others, 3 Cri.LJ,
889, 892 (Bom.2009)
- Order for maintenance of wives, children and parents...
- Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, Crl. App. No. 2009 of 2013; Decided on
26-11-2013 (SC): 2013 (14) SCALE 448 [K.S. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki
Chandra Ghose, JJ.]
- (1991) 2 SCC 375
- AIR 2005 SC 1809