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Legality of Live-In Relationship in India

In India, the legality of live-in relationships is quite subdued. Although living in a relationship is neither a crime nor a sin, it is somewhat frowned upon in Indian culture. In a country like India, where weddings are considered the social basis for legalizing the union of a man and a woman, the concept of a live-in relationship has added a new dimension to the relationship between a man and a woman.

With the passage of time and modernization, the social dynamics of India have seen several favorable improvements. Several judgments challenged ancient notions of Indian society. However, some social facts remain unaccepted and viewed through the perspective of patriarchy; a typical example is live-in relationships. While a section of the Indian population has accepted it, a large section remains against the idea. Even though films like 'Luka Chhuppi' have helped normalize it in Bollywood and local cinema, there is still some criticism.

Marriage and Live-in Relationship

In India, marriage has been considered a sacred union since the Vedic period. Marriages in India are conducted either under the personal law of the religion to which the party belongs or under the provisions of a special marriage law. Marriage is legally a contract between a man and a woman in which the parties agree to live together and support each other.

The concept of marriage has progressed over time. Marriage is usually defined as one of the basic civil rights after an official ceremony. It has a legal meaning and assumes several duties and responsibilities in matters of property inheritance, succession and the like. Marriage consequently includes the legal presumptions of custom, exposure, selectivity, and all the legal results that flow from that relationship.

Unlike many other countries, live-in relationship has not yet been socially accepted in India. However, with the steady progress of society and the far-reaching complexities of marriage, people are opting for an alternative institution such as cohabitation to create a permanent marital relationship that is like marriage but outside of marriage.

What is Live-in Relationship

Although the term "live-in relationship" is difficult to define, it refers to the domestic cohabitation of two unmarried people. Live-in relationships are increasingly prevalent among couples. However, one could argue that the incidence is higher in metropolitan areas and first-tier cities, especially among upwardly mobile young people.

Couples often entered live-in relationships to test their compatibility before committing to marriage. It allows them to better understand each other and make informed decisions about serious commitments such as marriage.

Live-in relationships allow separation without state intervention, which is especially important in countries like India where divorce is frowned upon and stereotyped.

Premarital sex, on the other hand, is frowned upon in Indian society. As a result, couples living together before marriage are often considered culturally inappropriate, unethical, and contrary to societal standards. As a result, while some have publicly embraced the idea of ​​live-in relationships, they still face social resistance based on traditional attitudes.

Classification of Live in in India

Living relationships can roughly be divided into three basic groups. This categorization helps in determining whether these categories fall within the broad scope of the term 'relationship in the nature of marriage'.

Continuing with the concept of 'relationship in the nature of marriage', three scenarios challenge the phrase. The first option is the domestic cohabitation of two unmarried heterosexuals. Second, adulterous live-in relationships. Finally, there are domestic relationships between same-sex couples.

The first type of live-in relationship is the most popular, widespread and recognized, in which two unmarried heterosexuals intentionally live. However, most of the public hostility and legal concerns come from the second and third scenarios above.

A live-in relationship is not a Crime

The Supreme Court in its various judgments has said that if a man and a woman live as husband and wife in a long-term relationship and even have children, the judiciary will presume that the two were married and would be subject to the same laws. them and their relationship.

The concept of live-in relationship was recognized in Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan[1] By the Allahabad High Court where a bench comprising Justice M. Katju and Justice R.B. Misra observed that. "In our opinion, a man and a woman, even without marriage, can live together if they wish.

This may be considered immoral by society, but it is not illegal. There is a difference between law and morality." Then in S, Khushboo v. Kanniammal & anr [2]the Supreme Court observed that cohabitation between two adults without formal marriage cannot be construed as an offence. It further adds that there was no law prohibiting live-in relationships or premarital sex.

Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to life and personal liberty as a fundamental right. In Ramdev Food Products (P) Ltd. v. Arvindbhai Rambhai Patel [3]the court observed that two people who are in a live-in relationship without formal marriage are not perpetrators of crime. Therefore, live-in relationships are legal in India.

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) of 2005 was probably that:
the first legislature to recognize live-in relationships by giving rights and protections to those women who are not legally married but live with a man under the same roof in a relationship that is like a marriage but not a marriage, plus a wife, though not equivalent to a wife (Auroshree, 2019).

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

A domestic relationship means a relationship between two persons who at any time live or have lived together in the same household, if they are related by consanguinity, marriage or a relationship of the nature of marriage, adoption or are members of the family. live together as a joint family

Residence is not categorically defined in the law, but interpretation is left to the courts. The Court interprets the term "marital relationship" on the basis of the above provision. At present, the provisions of PWDVA verify individuals who are in live-in relationships and provide women with some basic rights to protect against the abuse of fraudulent marriage, bigamous relationships and so on.

Some cases
In the case of Indra Sarma v. VKV Sarma [4](2013) SC listed rules for the classification of live-in relationship in nature of marriage.

These are:
The time period of the relationship
In Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act uses the phrase "at any time" to indicate a considerable period of time for the establishment and maintenance of such a relationship, which may vary from situation to situation depending on the circumstances.

Common household
The term "shared household" has been specified in Section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act and therefore requires no further explanation.

Provision of funds
Financially support each other or either of them, have shared bank accounts, acquire real estate in joint or female name, long-term financing in companies, shares in joint ownership to create a strong connection. be the leading factor.

Intentions and conduct of the parties
The common goal of the partners towards their relationship, such as their individual duties and obligations, essentially defines the nature of that relationship.

Domestic agreement
Delegating responsibility, especially to women, for household management and housework is evidence of a marriage-like relationship.

Public socialization
Hanging out in society and interacting with friends, relatives and others as if it were a real married couple is a significant situation to maintain a relationship with the nature of marriage.

Legal status and property rights of children born from a live-in relationship

  1. Legal Status:
    The Supreme Court in Tulsa v. Durghatiya[5]" ruled that a child born out of such a relationship would no longer be considered an illegitimate child. A notable prerequisite for the same is that the parents must have lived under the same roof and lived together for a significant period of time which proves their sincerity towards the relationship.

    S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan[6] was the first case to uphold the legitimacy of children born out of a live-in relationship. The Supreme Court held that "if a man and a woman live under the same roof and have lived together for several 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 shall not be illegitimate."

    In addition, the Court also interpreted Article 39(f) of the Constitution of India, which directs its policy to ensure that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, and that children and youth are protected from exploitation and moral and material abandonment.
     
  2. Ownership Rights:
    The Supreme Court in Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun approved the inheritance of four children born out of a live-in relationship by holding them as legal heirs. The court therefore ensured that inheritance could not be denied to any child born out of a permanent relationship of significant duration.

    In the case of Bharatha Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan, the Supreme Court also gave legitimacy to a child born of a live-in relationship in the eyes of the law and held that he could be allowed to inherit the property of his parents.

    The Supreme Court has held that a child born of live-in parents may be allowed to inherit the property of the parents, if any, but has no right to the co-parcenary property of the Hindu ancestors.

Maintenance

The Malimath Committee, i.e. Reforms of the Criminal Justice System, was established in November 2000, submitted a report in 2003 after making several recommendations for crimes against women

One of the important proposed recommendations was the modification of Section 125 of the Criminal Code of the Code (hereafter referred to as CPC), which is related to the maintenance rights of a neglected and dependent wife, children and parents (Anuja Agrawal 2012).

The Committee also sought to expand the definition of wife under Section 125 CPC to include a woman who has lived with a male relative by wife under the same roof for a reasonable period of time. However, the above criteria are necessary for all women who want to avail PWDVA which consist; correct age, mutual and independent consent, significant period and social status.

Undesirable conditions are if they live for a week, a month, a couple of months, one night, many relationships at once, only for sexual desire that does not show sincerity in the relationship.

In Chanmuniya v. Chanmuniya Kumar Singh Kushwaha[7], the Supreme Court set aside the judgment of the High Court which held that the petitioner's wife was not entitled to maintenance on the ground that only a legally married woman can claim maintenance under Section 125 CPC and awarded maintenance to the wife (appellant), which stated that the provisions of Section 125 of the Civil Code must be read in the light of Section 26 of the PWDVA, 2005, the Supreme Court held that women in live-in relationships are equally entitled to all the entitlements and reliefs available to them. legally married wife.

Similarly, in Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State of Maharashtra [8]and another, the Supreme Court observed that a woman in a live-in relationship can also claim maintenance under Section 125 CPC, it is not necessary to strictly establish marriage to claim maintenance under Section 125 of Cr.P.C.

Although in Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma[9] double judge Supreme Court forming K.S.P. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose, JJ. ruled that "when a woman is aware of the fact that a man with whom she is in a permanent relationship and who already has a legally wedded wife and two children is not entitled to the various reliefs available to a legally married wife, as well as those who enter into a relationship in the nature of marriage" under the provisions of PWDVA, 2005.

However, again only in the same case, the Supreme Court held that denial of any protection under the PWDVA, 2005 may be unfair to the victims. The Supreme Court, therefore, emphasized the need to expand the ambit of Section 200 which deals with "domestic relations in PWDVA, 2005, especially for dependents, poor, illiterate along with their children.

Legal status of children born from a live-in relationship

The first time the Supreme Court ruled on the legitimacy of children born outside a live-in relationship was in S.P.S. In Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan,[10] the Supreme Court said, "If a man and a woman live under the same roof and have lived together for several years, there will be a presumption under Section 114 of the Evidence Act that they are living as husband and wife. the children born to them shall not be illegitimate."

The court further interpreted the status and legislation to the extent that it shows compliance with Article 39(a). f) of the Indian Constitution, which stipulates the obligation of the state to provide children with adequate opportunities for their proper and further development. protect their interest.

The Supreme Court in Tulsa v. Durghatiya[11], dealing with a recent case regarding the legitimacy of children from such relationships, ruled that a child born from such a relationship would no longer be considered an illegitimate child. An important prerequisite for the same should be that the parents must live under the same roof and have lived together for a significant period of time in order for society to recognize them as husband and wife and it should not be a walk-in and walk-out relationship.

In another case of Bharatha Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan[12], the Supreme Court held that a child born in a live-in relationship may be allowed to inherit the property of the parents (if any) and therefore be given legitimacy in the eyes of the law. We have seen that the Indian Judiciary, in the absence of specific legislation, protects the rights of children by giving a wider interpretation to the law so that no child is "bastardized" through no fault of their own.

On 31/03/2011, a Special Bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising G.S. Singhvi, Asok Kumar Ganguly observed in Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun[13] that irrespective of the relationship between the parents, the birth of a child from such relationship must be considered independently. parents' relationship. It is plain and clear as the sun that a child born of such a relationship is innocent and entitled to all the rights and privileges enjoyed by children born of a valid marriage. This is the gist of Article 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, as amended.

Conclusion
The status of live-in relationships in other countries is much more relaxed and progressive. In Canada, all live-in couples enjoy legal sanctity if they have lived together for 12 months or have given birth or adopted a child. This gives the relationship and its child immediate legal status.

But in India, there is a social stigma against an individualistic way of life amid fears of high rates of adultery, women's vulnerability and uncertainty about the future of children. The social fabric of our country seems to be gradually changing over time, with society and media co-shaping each other. The reciprocal impact of socio-economic and cultural changes makes the unconventional visible and mildly acceptable.

This concept is now gradually being accepted by society as a substitute for marriage, but as an increasingly viable alternative. Now it is legalized and PWDVA 2005 protects some rights of women in this relationship. However, there are many gray areas that need mainstream discourse. There is a need for a separate law which should emphasize social, legal and secular aspects also to resolve these complexities which still exist in relation to housing.

References:
  1. Avantika Sarkar, (2015) " Law, Religion and Conjugal Ties: A Study of 'Live-in- Relationships' in Contemporary Indian Society", IJHRLR Vol. 1- Issue,ISSN 2455-5924.
  2. Anuja Agrawal (2012), Law and 'Live-in' Relationships in India, Economic & Political Weekly, vol xlviI no 39.
  3. Auroshree, "Live-In Relationship And Indian Judiciary", The SCC blog online,
  4. https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2019/01/23/live-in-relationship-and-indian-judiciary/, Retrived on 22/07/20.
  5. Rajagopal, Krishanadas (2010). "Living together a part of Right to Life, not an offence: SC." The Indian Express, < http://indianexpress.com/ > retrieved on 20/07/20.
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351358748_Live- in_Relationship_in_India_Laws_and_Challenges
  7. https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2019/01/23/live-in-relationship-and-indian-judiciary/
  8. https://www.juscorpus.com/tumultuous-judgments-in-live-in-relationships
End-Notes:
  1. 2000 SCC (Cri) 686
  2. SLP (Crl.) No. 4010 of 2008
  3. Appeal (civil) 8815-8816 of 2003
  4. (2013)
  5. AIR 2008 SC 1193
  6. 1994 AIR 133 1994 SCC
  7. (2011) 1 SCC 141
  8. 2218 OF 2007
  9. (2013) 15 SCC 755
  10. 1994 133 AIR SCC
  11. AIR 2008 SC 1193
  12. 7108 of 2003
  13. AIR 2010 SC 2685
Written By:
  • Ankita Yadav &
  • Utsav Mishra

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