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Live-in Relationship and Alimony

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.[1]
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 displeasure.

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[2].

The Supreme Court in D. Veluswamy v. D. Patchaiammal[3] 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[4] case 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.[5]

Definition Of Alimony Under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

Section 25
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…[6]

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[7]. 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.[8]

“Merely spending weekends together or a one-night stand would not make it a domestic relationship,” 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 mistress 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.”[9]

'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 great concern'.[10]
On October 21, 2010 a Two-Judge Bench of Supreme Court comprising Justices Markandey Katju and TS Thakur in D Veluswamy v. D Patchaiammal[11] ruled 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, 2005.

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”.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]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, etc.

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 were allowed.

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.[15]

In the landmark judgment Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V.Sarma, 2013[16]

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:
  1. Domestic relationship between an adult male and an adult female, both unmarried. It is the most uncomplicated sort of relationship
  2. Domestic relationship between a married man and an adult unmarried woman, entered knowingly.
  3. 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
  4. Domestic relationship between an unmarried adult female and a married male, entered unknowingly
  5. 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.[17]

In Vimala v. Veeraswamy [18], 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 this provision.”
In a subsequent decision of this Court in Savitaben Somabhat Bhatiya v. State of Gujarat and others[19], 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 'domestic relationship'.

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.

  1. Posted in Crime Against Women, Domestic Violence, Live In Relationship, Marriage Laws By Nnlrj India on December 20, 2010 accessed 7:28p.m.; 16/3/17
  2. See Section2(f) Domestic Violence Act 2005
  3. Infra5
  4. Madan Mohan Singh vs Rajni Kant, 9 SCC, 209(2010)
  7. Swarupa N. Dholam, Socio-Legal Dimensions of Live-In Relationship in India, Maharashtra Judicial Academy, 2(July 25, 2015),…/final%20article%20in%20both%20lanuage%20(1).pdf
  8. Alok Kumar v. State and Another, Crl.M.C. No. 299/2009 (Order dated 09August, 2010)
  9. Infra 5
  10. Supra 8
  11. D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal (2010) 10 SCC 469
  13. Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State Of Maharashtra and Others, 3 Cri.LJ, 889, 892 (Bom.2009)
  14. Order for maintenance of wives, children and parents...
  16. 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.]
  18. (1991) 2 SCC 375
  19. AIR 2005 SC 1809

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