SOCIAL AND LEGAL ASPECTS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA
Indian society has been more drastically modified and we have seen many changes in the living pattern of the people in the society. Nowadays people are more into modern custom and many have adopted the modern custom of live-in relation. Live-in relation is living together as a couple without being married to each other. But sometimes when the couple lives in this kind of relationship and if a dispute arises between them and if one of the couples files a suit in a court for justice, the other party can take advantage of the legal loopholes by stating that the marriage was a de facto marriage and can escape without performing any marital obligations. Even though it is no longer an offense but still it is a debatable issue in India. There are many issues in these relationships like property rights, domestic abuse, official documentation, and so on which need the attention of the legislature.
This research attempts to find an answer to the question like-
- why is it important for the legislature to acknowledge the living relationship in progressing country like India?
- Need of the legislation to make laws for children and woman who is facing injustice in a live-in relationship.
For my research paper, I have referred to online sources. These online sources include SSC ONLINE BLOG, MANUPATRA, LEXIS NEXIS, Law Colloquy Journals of Legal Studies, and Indian Kanoon, Legal service India,
In simple words, marriage is defined as a ceremony in which two people come together mutually to spend their life together with each other’s support and love. Marriage is a custom that prevails in India from ancient times. Marriage is considered a sacrament in Vedas which is described as a commitment between a man and a wife for life. A marriage not only connects a man and a woman but it is a ceremony that also connects two families of the bride and the groom. Hindu marriage has also referred to an action of Kanyadan where the father of the bride gives the hand of his daughter to the groom. By this gesture, he is giving the responsibility of his daughter to the groom and now expects that the groom will look after his daughter with utmost love and care for life long. As time progressed the meaning and interpretation of marriage has changed. However, certain aspects of marriage have remained constant. Even today marriage is considered a sacrament and the legislation tries to protect the marriage of two individuals till the end. In the case of Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam the lordships stated that marriage is held to be a junction of three important duties that are social, religious, and spiritual. According to the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 Section 7, A marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto and Clause 2 of this section says that “Where such rites and ceremonies include the Saptapadi (that is, the taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and the bride jointly before the sacred fire), the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken”. Hence it is believed that when the bride and the groom take 7 steps together before the holy fire then with the seventh step their marriage is solemnized and they are legally married.
The idea of marriage has constantly evolved as time has progressed. Thinking and the mindset of the people also evolved along with time. Now people want a relationship that has no obligations or responsibilities. Live-in relationships can be considered as this type of relation. Live-in relations means when two people live together as a couple without being married to each other. It is like a marriage but out of marriage. Although it seems an easy way to live together without any legal and marital obligation but the problem arises when there is a dispute between the couples. This research paper aims to understand why the legislation needs to recognize live-in relations and what law should be brought to govern these kinds of relations.
The main objective of this paper is to understand the concept of a live-in relationship. The aim is to understand why a live-in relationship should be legally recognized and why there is a need for the legislation to make rules and regulations regarding these relations to govern them when a dispute arises. This paper aims to study why live-in relations should be governed by the law.
- why is it important for the legislature to acknowledge the living relationship and make rules and regulations regarding it?
- Does legislation need to make strict and specific rules for the woman in this relation facing cruelty?
The research methodology used in this research to describe the overall concept consists of secondary sources. This research consists of qualitative research. Original data is collected using secondary sources. The research design of this paper is descriptive. This paper is based on doctrinal research. There are various journals, articles, books, and case studies that are referred to answer the research questions. A better and clear understanding is gained by doing doctrinal research. While writing the research paper Case laws have been collected from online sites like Manupatra, LexisNexis, and Indian Kanoon.
MARRIAGE ACCOURDING TO HINDU LAW
According to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 marriage is a custom which means a ritual that has been going on continuously and for a long period in which involves a ceremony including Saptapadi that is taken of seven steps by the bridegroom and bride around the holy fire jointly and after the seventh step the marriage becomes complete and binding. Unlike in the Muslim religion where marriage is considered as a contract in the Hindu religion marriage is considered a sacrament and a divine process where the bride and groom jointly decide to spend their life together with love and respect and fulfill their duties of marital obligations.
When we talk about marriage it involves a marital obligation that has to be performed by both parties in the marriage. If one of the parties refuses to perform their obligation or if any dispute arises among the married couple, then the aggrieved party can seek justice from the court of law.
Our legislation and judiciary support the divine concept of marriage. The law and the society are also biased towards the concept of marriage in India. This statement is a fact as we can see law gives various rights and privileges to a married couple to protect and encourage a marital relationship.
But if we see in today’s time, the divines which were in marriage long back are now disappearing slowly. Earlier marriage was done to spend life together with love and respect while fulfilling the marital obligations but now we can many marriages which is done by force, fraudand undue influence. Some people simply get married for money, property, or to just maintain their lavish life. The real meaning of marriage and its purity is been destroyed as time is progressing.
CONCEPT OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
Unlike marriage, in live-in relation, the couple is not married or are bound by any legal obligations but are living together under the same roof which leads to a presumption that the couple is married. In other words, it can be defined as cohabitation. The couple lives together, rather than marry for various reasons. One of the main reasons is that before entering into marital obligations, they want to test their compatibility which each other by living together under the same roof. Some people who are scared of commitment or those who don’t believe in marital relations usually opt for live-in relations.
People who are lesbian, gay, or people who are already married to someone else are also seen opting for a live-in relationship as the law and society do not allow them to enter into a marital relationship. The concept of live-in relation was ideally generated in Western countries which slowly spreading in our social norms also.
While defining the live-in relationship, Justice S.N Dhingra in the case of Alok Kumar v. State stated that “there are no legal strings attached to this relationship nor does this relationship create any legal bond between the parties. People who choose to have a live-in relationship cannot complain of infidelity or immorality as live-in relationships are also known to have been between a married man and unmarried woman or vice versa”. The morality of live-in relationships is still questioned by our society. Even though India is a progressing country but still topic like this is a sensitive issue. These relationships are highly criticized by society especially in areas that are less advanced as people believe it is a sin to cohabitate before marriage.
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA BY JUDICIARY
Our legislation has no specific rules, regulations, or laws for live-in relationships. But when a dispute arises it’s the judiciary that has interpreted the laws in such a manner that has defined these kinds of relationships and has provided certain parameters or guidelines to govern these kinds of relationships through various case laws. Some of the landmark case laws through which certain definitions of guidelines are given by the honorable judges to maintain justice in society are been discussed below.
In Payal Sharma v. Superintendent Nari Niketan and Others, Justice M Katju and Justice R.B Mishra commended that, “in our opinion, a man and a woman, even without getting married, can live together if they wish to. This may be considered as immoral by the society but is not illegal in the eyes of law”. In India, there are no laws regarding live-in relationships that state that they are illegal or immoral. It’s the society that considered it as a sin that tarnishes the meaning and purity of marriage. In the judgment of S.Khushboo v. Kanniammal, the judges gave a landmark judgment where they stated: “that there is no law which prohibits live-in relationship or pre-marital sex. Supreme court also stated that live-in relationship is permissible only in unmarried major persons of heterogeneous sex”.
In the case of Mohabbat Ali Khan v. Md. Ibrahim Khan, the court relied on the case of Andrahennedige Dinohamy v. Wijetunge Liyanapatabendige Blahamy where the Privy Council stated that “where a man and a lady are proved to have lived respectively as a spouse, the law will presume, unless the opposite is demonstrated that they were living respectively in the result of a legitimate marriage, and not in a condition of concubinage” and stated that in such cases where a man and woman have lived together for a long time, it will be presumed them as a married couple.
In the case of D Patchaiammal v. D Velusamy the supreme court stated that “if a man and a woman is living is a live-in relationship from a long period, then they will be taken as a married couple in the society and the child born out of this relationship will be considered as legitimate.” The court also added that they are giving judgment in favor of the woman and by this decision they are not encouraging live-in relationships.
Even though the courts in India have declared live-in relationships illegal but no proper definition is given to it by the legislature. There are no specific laws that guard these relationships or solve the dispute which rises in this relationship. The legislature has not given any rights to the parties living in a live-in relationship but the court through various judgments has interpreted the meaning of a live-in relationship.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP BY LEGISLATION
Legislation needs to acknowledge live-in relations in India as in this modern era, people are opting for this relationship where they have no commitment, legal obligation, or marital obligation. In India especially in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore live-in relations are a common concept.
Even though live-in relationships are considered to tarnish the purity and sacrament of marriage, it is a practice that is being adopted by people in the modern era. In the future, we can presume that this concept can become popular and people may adopt this instead of marriage. In such cases, the government being a parent to its nation has the responsibility to protect and govern its people.
Article 21 of our constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty which is also our fundamental right which also includes the right to cohabitate with whom we want to live. The Supreme Court has also stated that the right to live together is a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Hence even if the society says that live-in is immoral and is a sin, the legislation cannot term it as illegal or provide punishment to those who are in live-in relationships unless they conduct any unlawful or immoral activity according to the law.
There are many cases where the woman is killed by their live-in partners for insignificant reasons. There was also a case where a child who was living with the couple in a live-in relationship witnessed a horrific scene where the couple fought and in frustration killed the woman in front of the child. There are various cases where the woman is been killed for petty reasons living in a live-in relationship by their partner as for them it is just like relation with no legal bond and can do whatever they like to do even it is immoral. But this is not the case. Even if this relationship is not legally recognized and considered a sin by society, the rights of a person are guaranteed by our constitution and everyone has the right to live and live their life with dignity.
The legislature needs to make laws regarding live-in relationships because it is a concept that can be misused to a large extend creating great injustice in society. Even though both the parties in a live-in relationship enter with mutual consent but still there are great chances that a dispute might arise between them or any one of the parties may treat with cruelty or their fundamental rights may get infringed. In such cases, a person seeks justice but if there is no law to help them then there is no point to live in a democratic nation.
PROTECTION TO WOMEN AND CHILDREN
In a live-in relationship mostly it is the woman and the children who are the ones who are most vulnerable and are being affected when things take a wrong turn in this relationship. There are no laws made by the legislature specifically to protect couples in a live-in relationship. However, certain laws are interpreted by the court in a manner that safeguards certain rights of women in a live-in relationship.
PROTECTION OF WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT,2005
It was the first Act, which gave recognition to live-in relationships by giving rights and protection to a woman who is not legally married but still living with a man under one roof. This is the definition of live-in relationships.
Section 2(f) of this act states that “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 like marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family”.
SECTION 125 OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURAL CODE,1973-
Under Cr. P.C, section 125 talks about maintenance for wives, children, and parents who cannot maintain themselves and need assistance. Under this maintenance can be only claimed by a female who is a wife who has been either divorced or has obtained a divorce or is legally living separately and has not remarried. Women who are living in a live-in relationship are not protected under this act as it says the woman has to be married or divorced.
In June 2008, the National Commission for Women recommended to The Ministry of Women and Child Development to include the female of live-in relationship for the right to maintenance under section 125 of Cr.P.C. The Maharashtra Government was the only one to acknowledge the report of the Justice Malimath committee and accepted the proposal of a woman being given the status of a wife if she has cohabited with a man for a significant period. Due to this acceptance now a woman who has been living in a live-in relationship for a significant period is entitled to maintenance if she is not able to maintain herself.
In the case of Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha, the court stated that a broad interpretation should be given to the term wife in section 125 of Cr.P.C. it should also include those women who are living with a man as husband and wife for a significant time. no strict proof of wedding is to be presented before the court for maintenance under section 125 of Cr.P.C. This interpretation of wife has led to a great step towards safeguarding the rights and protecting a woman in live-in relation from any kind of injustice.
LEGAL STATUS OF CHILDREN OUT OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP
The earlier live-in relationship was considered a sin and a crime in society. The children who were born out of this relation were considered illegitimate. These children did not get any love and affection from their family or society and were treated as outcasts even when they are at no fault.
In the case of Tulsa v. Durghatiya, the supreme court held that children which are born out of a live-in relationship are no more to be considered illegitimate children. Subsequently, in the case of S.P.S Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan the supreme court stated that “if a man and woman are living under the same roof for a long time then under section 114 of the Evidence Act the child born to them will be not illegitimate”.
Sometimes the child out of live-in relation is treated as cruelty by the parents as well as society as they are the product of something which is considered as a sin or a crime. To protect the child from this harsh conduct of the people in the case of Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun, justice Asok Ganguly stated that a child out of such a relationship is innocent and is entitled to all the rights and privileges available to children born out of a valid marriage and this is the crux of section 16(3) of the amended Hindu Marriage Act,1955.
This is a great step towards protecting children born in this relationship as even if society might not consider them as legitimate children, the parents have to maintain and protect their child at any cost as it is legally binding.
NEED FOR LAWS GOVERNING LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
There are no specific laws made by the legislature which govern a live-in relationship in India. If any protection is provided to the couple, it is been through various interpretations which are done by the court of various provisions. But since no law is provided it becomes difficult for the court to interpret the provisions of law which again becomes a lengthy and time-consuming process.
Since no absolute law is there in India, people are not aware that live-in relations are legal and are not considered a crime. Many people misuse this concept for their benefit. Sometimes a married man cohabitates with a woman as the law does not permit polygamy. This causes great injustice to the wife as well as the woman with whom he is cohabiting if she does not know about his marriage.
This kind of relationship was also termed as a walk-in and walk-out relationship where people can whenever want can continue this relationship or end it. People misuse it by staying with their partner for a long time than on one fine day will end up leaving them without any reasonable cause. The woman who becomes dependent on the man becomes helpless in this situation which leads to various problems like suicide, depression, and trauma.
Even the children in this relationship although they are provided with their rights, still are considered illegitimate and are denied their rights. Society still fails to accept them even though they are innocent.
There is no guarantee that the woman and the child can avail their rights which is provided by the judiciary as there is no proof of a live-in relationship and the other person can easily deny the fact that they have cohabited together. This creates a great sense of injustice in society.
The legislature should properly define a live-in relation and make specific laws regarding it especially to protect the woman and children who are affected by these relationships. As this is a rapidly increasing notion, laws governing live-in relationships should be enacted to protect the couple’s interests and prevent unfairness. No one should be able to take advantage of the laws, and no one should be able to claim to be above the law by using this concept.
The legislation should make certain rules or conditions for these kinds of relationships which was also suggested by the Supreme court in the case of Indra Sarma v. V.K. Sarma.
- They should set an age limit for both the parties for cohabitation so that no minor can enter into this relationship for their best interest.
- The relationship should be between unmarried adults so that there can be no case of adultery. Even though adultery is decriminalized, there should be no cases of marriage where the partners are being unfaithful to another.
- When a woman enters into a live-in relationship with a married man, and if she could not have known about his marriage by ordinary diligence, then she should be entitled to maintenance and separate maintenance should be given to the child, if born out of this marriage.
- If a man or a woman enters into a live-in relation, despite already being married, then punishment should be given, if a petition is filed by their significant other.
- Live-in relationships between same-sex couples should be also recognized under this and proper regulations should be made.
The legislation should make laws based on these suggestions to ensure there is no injustice happening to any person in this relationship and no wrong is done against society.
Live-in relationships are considered as a concept which tarnishes the purity of marriage which is considered something like a sacrament. This statement might be true to someone and might be false as it all depends upon the perception of an induvial but we can not deny the fact that this is not an illegal concept or a sin. It is the right of a person to cohabitate with the one they love. We can not seize away their rights just because we think it’s immoral. Everyone has the right to live their life according to them and as long as they are not doing an activity that is illegal in the eyes of law, no one can interfere in their life.
Since this is a concept that is growing vastly, the legislation should make laws regarding live-in relation to protect the interest of the couple and save them from injustice. No one should be able to misuse the laws and no one should be above the law by misusing this concept for their benefit. Therefore, legislation should make laws so that such misuse can be stopped and justice can be maintained in society.
The legislation must protect its citizens at all cost as the government is considered as a parent to the nation, and a parent always protects and work for the interest of its child.
Reema Aggarwal v. AnupamAIR(2004)3SCC199
Payal Sharma v. Superintendent Nari Niketan and Others 2001SCC ONLINE ALL332
KHUSHBOO V. KANNIAMMAL AND ANR., (2010)5SCC600
Mohabbat Ali Khan v. Md. Ibrahim Khan AIR1929PC135
Andrahennedige Dinohamy v. Wijetunge Liyanapatabendige Blahamy (1928) 1 M.L.J 388 (PC)
D Patchaiammal v. D Velusamy (2010) 10 SCC 469
MANEKA GANDHI V. UNION OF INDIA AIR 1978 SC 597
Tulsa v. Durghatiya (2008) 4 SCC 520
INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT SECTION 114
S.P.S Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan 1994 SCC (1) 460
Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun (2011)11 SCC 1
Indra Sarma v. V.K. Sarma 2013
PROVISIONS OF LAW-
THE HINDU MARRIAGE ACT, 1955 SECTION 7
HINDU MARRIAGE ACT,1955 SECTION 3(a)
HINDU MARRIAGE ACT,1955 SECTION 7(2)
HINDU MARRIAGE MARRIAGE ACT, 1955 SECTION 16(3)
SECTION 2(F) OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT,2005
SECTION 125 OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE,1972
INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT SECTION 114
LEGAL RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA: LAWS AND CHALLENGES – PRIYA SEPAHA(2021)
SOCIO-LEGAL DIMENSIONS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA
FORCED MARRIAGES IN INDIA: CALLING IT FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS- AYURSHI DUTT(2018)
CASES OF MATRIMONIAL FRAUD IN INDIA- Iamcheated.comResearchTeam (2018)
LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP AND INDIAN JUDICIARY- SSC ONLINE BLOG- ASTHA SAXENAT
LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA: LAWS AND CHALLENGES
STATUS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA AND THE NEED TO LEGISLATE ON IT- YASH ARYA
 Reema Aggarwal v. AnupamAIR(2004)3SCC199
 THE HINDU MARRIAGE ACT, 1955 SECTION 7
 LEGAL RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA:LAWS AND CHALLENGES – PRIYA SEPAHA(2021)
 HINDU MARRIAGE ACT,1955 SECTION 3(a)
 HINDU MARRIAGE ACT,1955 SECTION 7(2)
 SOCIO-LEGAL DIMENSIONS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA
 FORCED MARRIAGES IN INDIA: CALLING IT FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS- AYURSHI DUTT(2018)
 CASES OF MATRIMONIAL FRAUD IN INDIA- Iamcheated.comResearchTeam (2018)
 LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP AND INDIAN JUDICIARY- SSC ONLINE BLOG- ASTHA SAXENAT
 Cr.M.C NO.299/2009, decided on August 9,2010 by High Court of Delhi
Payal Sharma v. Superintendent Nari Niketan and Others 2001SCC ONLINE ALL332
 S. KHUSHBOO V. KANNIAMMAL AND ANR., (2010)5SCC600
 Mohabbat Ali Khan v. Md. Ibrahim Khan AIR1929PC135
 Andrahennedige Dinohamy v. Wijetunge Liyanapatabendige Blahamy (1928) 1 M.L.J 388 (PC)
 D Patchaiammal v. D Velusamy (2010) 10 SCC 469
 Parens Patriae- it is a Latin word meaning parent of the nation
 LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA: LAWS AND CHALLENGES
 MANEKA GANDHI V. UNION OF INDIA AIR 1978 SC 597
 STATUS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA AND THE NEED TO LEGISLATE ON IT- YASH ARYA
 SECTION 2(F) OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT,2005
 SECTION 125 OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE,1972
 STATUS OF LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA, AND THE NEED TO LEGISLATE ON IT- YASH ARYA
 Tulsa v. Durghatiya (2008) 4 SCC 520
 INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT SECTION 114
 S.P.S Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan 1994 SCC (1) 460
 Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun (2011)11 SCC 1
 HINDU MARRIAGE MARRIAGE ACT, 1955 SECTION 16(3)
 Payal Katara v. Superintendent, Nari Niketan Kandri Vihar Agra and Others
Author: Aishwarya P,
CMR SCHOOL OF LEGAL STUDIES