LEGALITY OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP

INTRODUCTION

No relationship is all sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together.” The world has never been the same. We address new changes every day. An extreme change in culture can be seen just as the change in science and technology. Due to globalization, we have access to new cultures. The concept of marriage is a socially and legally accepted form of relationship between couples. In India, social structure and bonding display marriage as an important sanctioned union between individual people. Living together without marriage is considered taboo but in recent times the notion of a live-in relationship is quite popular among the youth.

Due to the rapid change of things, couples are in favour of living together in a single household, without getting married. The live-in relationship may be defined as “cohabitation of two persons, of the opposite sex, living together without marriage, and are sharing a common household”. There can be many reasons for living together, such as to test their comfortability and compatibility, before committing a legal union.

There is no law in legislation prohibiting live-in relationships. Therefore, the Supreme Court has stated that a man and woman, living together without marriage, will not be considered an offence. The Supreme Court has also been looking at this issue with its different judgement.

CONCEPT OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA

“Living together is a right to live”, referring to Article 21 of the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court stated that a live-in relationship does not constitute an offence. It may be considered morally illegal but there is no provision in law to prove a live-in relationship as illegal. Looking at the case of 2006, Lata Singh v. the State of UP,[1] it was held that live-in relationships of the opposite sex can be perceived as immoral but does not amount to an offence under Indian law.

In Badri Prasad v. Deputy Director Consolidation,[2] observation was made that, if a live-in relationship is continued for a long period of time and the couples present themselves as husband and wife to the society, they will be recognized as legally married couples. If it is found that the partners were living together without marriage, for sexual reasons, neither can claim the benefits of legally married.

The main idea behind couples believing in having a live-in relationship is that they think marriage is just a waste of money and to prove their love they don’t have to indulge in any social drama. The live-in relationship may be seen as a trend but its existence in form of ‘Maitraya Karars’ can be traced from parts of Gujrat.

Indian Judiciary neither prohibits nor encourage live-in relationship in India. The judiciary is concerned about the matters which is presented in front of it and delivers justice accordingly. In Payal Katara v. Superintendent Nari Niketan Kandra Vihar, Agra[3] and others it was held that any man and woman who wants to live together without getting married can live if they wish. Thus, it can be said that living together is not an offence and according to law it is a fundamental right.

PROS AND CONS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA

The abstraction of live-in relationships has been observed by the Supreme Court and it is visible from the judgements of the Court that live-in relationships are not illegal in the eyes of law. But still, the topics holds a strong debate.

PROS:

  • From ancient times marriage is considered a religious sacrament and women were not allowed to get married to someone of their choice, but as time has changed and women are given independent status, they are more likely to prefer to stay with their partner so that they can settle with someone fit for them.
  • People argue that being in a live-in relationship, youngsters will lose values but they are more pragmatic.
  • Live-in relationships emphasize individual freedom.
  • Couples in a live-in relationship will be able to understand the needs of each other as well as the suitability for the future.
  • It will be much easier for both the partners to come out of the relationship as compared to marriage.

CONS:

  • The live-in relationship has far-reaching upshots as it can lead to child pregnancy.
  • Youth can undergo HIV/AIDS by indulging in sexual activities without getting a proper checkup.
  • It can increase the risk of unwanted child and children born out of living together may not be brought up properly.
  • You may discover that there is no guarantee that in long run your partner will stay loyal towards you and may end up leaving you.
  • Live-in relationships may seem like the right choice at first sight but due to certain circumstances if it leads to an end it may become a reason for depression, anxiety and even suicide.

CHILD BORN OUT OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP

The Supreme Court on its different verdict has stated that if a man and a woman are living together, without marriage, for a long period of time will be recognized as married couples and the child born out of their relationship would be legitimate. According to the Domestic Violence Act, 2005[4] women having a ‘live-in relationship’ for a reasonable long period of time will be ensured the status of wives.

According to the Supreme Court,[5] a child born out of a live-in relationship can only claim the property of his/her parent’s self-acquired property. In regards to section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 the child born have to be treated legitimate and they cannot succeed to the properties of any other related and are limited to parent’s property.

It is affirmed by the Apex court that a live-in relationship is only for unmarried heterosexuals and if a married man if is found guilty of ‘Adultery’ he will be punishable under section 497 of the Indian Penal Code.

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS

Live-in relationships are most favoured by youth nowadays. Though it is not an offence at evident through the judgements of the Supreme Court it may be immoral to society. But there is a strong need to spread awareness among the youth as such relationships may create societal pressure and can raise the issues of division of property, violence, rape, suicide, and unwanted child.

It’s completely the choice of the person if they want to have a live-in relationship without getting married, but they should maintain two important aspects that are trust and loyalty if they want a long-lasting relationship and also stand firm on their decision as it might impact them and their family.

Author(s) Name: Muskan Pandey (Student, Prestige Institute of Management and Research, Indore)

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References:

[1] Lata Singh v. State of UP, (2006) 5 SCC 475

[2] Badri Prasad v. Deputy Director Consolidation, 1979 SCR (1) 1

[3] Payal Sharma v. Superintendent, Nari Niketan, Agra, AIR 2001 All. 254.

[4] Siyabonga Sibisi, Understanding certain provisions of the Domestic Violence Act: A practitioner’s perspective, De Rebus (June 24, 2021, 9:30 PM), https://www.derebus.org.za/understanding-certain-provisions-domestic-violence-act-practitioners-perspective/.

[5] The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, § 16, No. 25, Acts of Parliament, 1955, as Subs. by Act of 68 of 1976.

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