In India, marriage is believed as a pure and sacred bond between a male and a female on top of this Hindu law books (Dharma Shastra) always supported the concept of “one man one wife” but over the past few years, there has been a rapid change in the marriage concept. As Indians started to evolve mentally the successive generations have been accepting few refused practices that are been in practice since the Vedic period. The practice of sati, Decriminalizing Section 377, Section 497 shows a positive sign that the law is changing itself because of changes in society and human psychology. There exist some concepts that society still criticizes and does not accept but are in practice.
In recent decades, the concept of a Live-in- relationship has mushroomed but despite this, the Indian parents still cringe at it and have been continuously criticized one reason being the acceptance by society and Lack of proper legal rights on the other hand. It takes a lot of courage and guts for someone to admit that they are in a live-in relationship with their parents, friends, and society. Every man jack has their justifications to this concept however one must understand that we cannot master our beliefs over other’s rights.
No law has been legislated in India to provide the rights to the couple in a Live-in relationship. Despite that, the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 protects the female and children of live-in couples. This Blog focuses on the Right to maintenance and property rights of women in a Live-in relationship.
Let us dive into the concept of Live-in Relationship —
This line of thinking originated from western countries. There is no legal definition of a Live-in relationship in Indian Laws being said that it can be understood as the partners (homogeneous or heterogeneous) cohabiting and having intimacy between them. No strings will be attached to the parties and either of the partners in Live-in has the option to walk out of the relationship when they want. These relationships are frequently seen in Tier-1 cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, and People generally opt for this as it could help them understand the compatibility and know each other inside and out.
Is it a crime in India for partners to be in a Live-in relationship?
In the landmark case of Kushboo vs. Kanniamal &Anr, [i] the Supreme Court held that a live-in relationship is not illegal and cannot be considered unlawful though it is socially unacceptable in this country. It also says that a live-in relationship is allowed by two majors and comes within the purview of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
RIGHT TO MAINTENANCE OF WOMEN IN LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP
In India, there is no statute to govern the live-in relationship however we have progressive judicial interpretations. There is no law in India which acknowledges this kind of relationship. The Judiciary has supported the rights of women and their children in Live-in relationships and the long-term cohabitation of two majors has been equated as a valid marriage. Indra Sarma vs. V.K. V Sarma [ii]in this case the Supreme Court recognized five types of live-in relationships that can be considered i.e., cohabitation between an adult unmarried male and adult unmarried woman, a married man and an adult unmarried woman, a married adult woman and an adult unmarried man, an adult unmarried woman (entered unknowingly) into a relationship with a married male, between same-sex partners.
In the famous case, Kushboo vs. Kanniamal &Anr [iii]the petitioner is charged under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and it was also claimed that the petitioner endorsed and supported sex before marriage and Live-in. The court held that living together is a Right to Life and not illegal.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT
In India, Live-in relationships are not acknowledged in any law, however, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has been legislated to protect women from any physical and mental abuses from their partner or family.
In the landmark case, D. Veluswamy vs. D. Patchaimmal[iv], in this case, Supreme Court held that every live-in couple cannot be termed as “Relationship in nature of marriage”. The women will not be entitled to maintenance if these conditions are not fulfilled:
- They must be in a valid legal age of marriage.
- Neither of the parties in a Live-in relationship should have a living spouse while entering the relationship.
- Must cohabit knowingly for a significant period.
- Both parties must behave and be recognized as husband and wife in society.
The court, in this case, held that the appellant’s status is lower than the status of the wife. If the man who has a mistress to whom he provides financial support and use for sexual purposes cannot be termed as a relationship of marriage by nature.
Some of the judges say that when there is no marriage in the case of a Live-in relationship the concept of divorce will not come into the picture and the woman in a live-in relationship will not be considered as wife to avail maintenance under Section 125 of the code. In mid-2008 the National Commission for Women sought a change in the term “wife” under Section 125 of the code to include the women in Live-in relationships[v].
PROPERTY RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP
As we do not have any regulations that govern Live-in relationships, it is still a question whether the woman in a Live-in relationship gets right over the property. If one partner decides to walk out and another partner cannot be homeless. However, under the Hindu Succession Act of,1956 the rights of women over ancestral property are secured. After the Amendment of the Act in the year 2005, the rights to her are acquired by birth like a son whether she is married or in a Live-in relationship.
It is the need of the hour for the new laws to be enacted related to Live-in relationships which would provide rights and obligations of partners in Live-in thereby reducing misuse of existing laws. The courts must have a practical approach while making the standard conditions as some choose live-in to avoid marriage and legal obligations while some want to check the compatibility. Though the concept of a Live-in relationship is recognized by the judiciary, acceptance in society has always been a debate as it has cons attached to it.
Author(s) Name: Srija Purimetla (IFIM Law School, Bangalore)
[ii] 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.]
[iv] D Velusamy Vs D Patchaiammal, CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 2028-2029 OF 2010