LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP AND SUCCESSION OF PROPERTY

Introduction

Every country or place has its own culture and traditions. Similarly, India also has its rich cultural heritage and traditions, which are quite different from other parts of the world especially the west. Things like Live-in Relationships might be common in other parts of the west, but for India, it was a new concept altogether.

Though it is legalized, even though a majority of the Indians have yet not accepted the concept of Live-in Relationships, but modern times are bringing a positive approach and change along with it. With the Legalization of Live-in Relationships, many other related issues have come to light, such as the succession of property, children born out of such relationships, etc.

What is a Live-in Relationship?

A live-in relationship is an arrangement when two people involved in a romantic and sexual relationship as partners for a long time or permanently, decide to live together without marriage. It is also called cohabitation in some countries. Initially, it was a whole new concept for Indian society and also faced widespread disagreement. The reason for getting into such a relationship may vary from couple to couple.

Nowadays, many couples, with the intent to safeguard their future, believe that it is wise to check compatibility by entering into a Live-in Relationship because, in today’s scenario, compatibility is one of the major reasons for divorce. Whereas some couples do not want to get married because they might have had bad experiences concerning marriage or might have witnessed a marriage taking ugly turns. New couples see Live-in Relationships as a solution to struggles and problems that come with marriage. This might be one of the reasons for growing support and acceptance for such type of relationships.

As per the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2005, the court has held that if the couple lives together for a significant period and presents themselves as wife and husband, the relationship is considered to be a relationship “in the nature of marriage”. At times this type of relationship may turn into an unhealthy relationship and the reasons can be harassment or abuse. Females who are not legally married but are living with male individuals involved in a relationship are also given protection under The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Section 2(f) of The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005 

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 in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.”[1]

The legal status of Live-in Relations in India

There is no specific statute concerning Live-in Relationships and these loopholes are filled by judicial judgements. In the case of Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan, The Allahabad High Court observed that two persons of heterosexual nature can live together if they want to do so, without getting worried. In the eyes of society, this may be immoral, but it is not illegal.[2]

The Supreme Court, in the case of Lata Singh v. State of U.P. and another, held that only unmarried persons of heterogeneous sex can enter into Live-in Relationships.[3] The Supreme Court, in the case of Radhika v. State of M.P., observed that if two people of heterogenous sex are involved in Live-in Relationship for a long duration, their children would be called legitimate and the couple will be treated as married. [4]

Succession of Property

The legalization of Live-in Relationships has brought with it many other issues such as succession or inheritance of property. Property rights are one of the essential rights for human beings. Due to customary Patriarchal inheritance, women had to fight to get their fair share in the property and even today they are fighting for property rights. It becomes even more complicated in the case of Live-in Relationships, as it is yet not accepted by our society.

In the case Parayankandiyal Eravath Kanapravan Kalliani Amma v. K. Devi, the Supreme Court held that the children who are born out of relationships other than legally valid marriages should be recognized as legitimate.[5] Whereas, an essential for the child to be legitimate is that their relationship should not be resembling a “walk-in and walk-out” relationship. In the case of Jinia Keotin v. Kumar Sitaram Manhji,[6] it was said that only the property which is self-acquired by the parents can be transferred but the ancestral property cannot be transferred.

According to the current legal scenario, anyone can be nominated by a person for his/her will, but it is only possible in the case of self-acquired property. A succession certificate was granted by the Supreme Court in the case of Vidyadhari v. Sukharna Bai, to a Live-in partner, as the partner was nominated by the deceased partner.[7]

Conclusion

The concept of Live-in Relationships evolved with the idea of no-strings-attached relationship carved by people with a broad mindset. It is the cohabitation of a couple without marriage. This was a whole new concept for the Indians and unacceptable at the same time. According to Indian culture and traditions, it was not bearable at all. There are no specific provisions concerning Live-in Relationships, but these gaps are filled by the judgements given by The Supreme Court of India also known as the Apex Court of the country.

The Supreme Court legalized Live-in Relationships stating that a Live-in Relationship comes under the ambit of the Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21[8] of the Constitution of India and that two major heterosexual people living together is neither illegal nor unlawful. The legalization of Live-in Relationships has brought with it many new issues which include succession of property in the case of Live-in Relationships.

The Right to Property is a right guaranteed to people by the Constitution. Couples in a Live-in Relationship also have the right to inherit property. In many cases, various High Courts and The Apex Court have passed the judgements that Live-in couples also have the right to inherit property that is self-earned and not ancestral. These developments are proof that the times are changing and acceptance for Live-in Relationships is increasing.

Author(s) Name: Rossel Aggarwal (Army Institute of Law, Mohali)

References:

[1] The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, s 2 (f), No. 43, Acts of Parliament, 2005.

[2] Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan, Writ Petition No. 16876 of 2001.

[3] Lata Singh v. State of U.P. and another, AIR 2006 SC 2522.

[4] Radhika v. State of M.P., AIR 1972 MP 124.

[5] Parayankandiyal Eravath Kanapravan Kalliani Amma v. K. Devi, (1996) 4 SCC 76.

[6] (2003) 1 SCC 730.

[7] Vidyadhari v. Sukharna Bai, (2008) 2 SCC 238.

[8] India Const. art. 21.

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