LEGAL VALIDITY OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS

Authored by Nivea KG law student from Government Law College Ernakulam,Kerala

Marriage is something that our society considered to be pure and sacred. Since the Vedic period the concept of “one man, one wife” was practiced by our society. The structure of marriage has been evolving with time. The future generations are all about to consider relationships with more liberality and opening their minds towards the concepts of premarital sex and live-in relationships.

A man and a woman in a live-in relationship are similar to that of a married couple without having a legally approved marriage. The main objective of this live-in relationships is that the intended couple sought to assess their compact ability with each other before entering to some commitment like marriage. 

LEGAL STATUS OF LIVE IN RELATIONSHIPS

In India there aren’t any specific laws regarding live-in relationships, even in the absence of specific legislations judiciary through its wisdom has immensely contributed in understanding the problems relating to live-in relationships and has maintained a balanced position. 

Following are certain laws dealing with live-in relationships –

  • PROTECTION OF WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2005  This statute is the only law which refers to the term ” relationship in nature of marriage” in the definition of domestic relationship given under sec 2 (f). As per this section, the act not only applies to a married couple but also a relationship like marriage. 

In Indra Sharma v VKV Sharma[1], the Supreme Court set out some criteria to decide whether a live-in relationship comes under the preview of protection of women from domestic violence act. It is based on the period of the relationship, shared household, pooling of resources and financial arrangements, sexual relationship, children, socialization in public, intention and conduct of the parties.

  • INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT 1872

The law put forward a concept of “presumption of marriage” which could be used to identify live-in relationship and the female partner as a wife. This is under section 114 and section 50 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. If a man and woman are living under the same roof and cohabit for several years, the court applies this presumption[2].

Elongated and continuous cohabitation uphold presumption in favour of marriage. Due to the absence of a precise law, there are some contrasts in the court’s decision even though there is a long time cohabitation.

  • CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE, 1973

 For the procedures regarding maintenance ‘wife’ is defined in section 125 (1) explanation (b) of CrPC as ‘wife’ includes a woman who has been divorced by or has obtained a divorce from her husband and has not remarried. But when it comes to the status of woman in a live-in relationship is not the same as that of a wife .it also lacks social recognition and sanctity.

 The Malimath committee report 2003 on “reforms in the criminal justice system” suggested an amendment for the word wife in section 125 of the CrPC,1973 to add ‘ a woman who is living with a man for a reasonable period’. It is to safeguard the said to be the wife who has been deceived by believing that she is marrying an unmarried man.

  • MAINTENANCE LAWS 

Judiciary takes different stands on the matter of maintenance. The SC had made a precedent on granting maintenance to women from her male partner who was in a long term marital relationship[3].

It is to be noted that the court had also denied this right of a woman who is not a legally wedded wife on the subsistence of the first marriage of male partner.

In D. Veluswami v. D Patchaimmal[4], the court held that a woman in a live-in relationship is not entitled to maintenance unless she fulfils certain measures like 

  1. The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses
  2. They must be of legal age to marry; they must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried.
  3. They must have voluntarily cohabited for a significant period.
  • PROPERTY AND SUCCESSION

 The succession rights in a live-in relationship are not recognized by our personal property laws. In the current legal scenario, a person through his will can appoint any other person as his successor. So, the best to inherit a property in a live-in relationship is through a will. In the absence of a will, one cannot inherit the property of the deceased partner. 

In Vidhyadhari v. Sukharna Bhai[5], the Supreme Court provided a judgment which created a hope for the live-in partners. In this dictum, the court held that a live-in partner can inherit the property of the deceased partner if they are in a long time live-in relationship.

CHILDREN BORN OUT OF LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP

As far as the rights of the children are concerned the dignity and respect that a child who is born out of a live-in relationship is lacking when comparing with a child who is born to marital couples. The child born out of such a relationship is also facing discriminations in the matter of legitimacy, parental responsibility, inheritance etc.

Our Constitution focuses on the concept of equality of status, opportunity and individual dignity. Even though the relationship of the parents is not sanctioned by the law, the birth of a child in such a relationship has to be viewed independently of the relationship of the parents. 

The various judgment of the Supreme Court had determined the judicial status of a live-in relationship. Even though it is immoral by the Indian society, in the eyes of the law live-in relationships are legal. Living together is a right to life and it can’t be held illegal.

[1] 2013 (14) SCALE 448 

[2] Gokal Chand v. Parvin Kumari, AIR 1952 SC 231 

[3] Shri Bodhisattawa Gautham v. Miss SubhraChakraborthy 1996 SCC (1) 490.

[4] AIR 2011 SC 479,

[5] 2008 2 SCC 238

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