LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS : LEGAL STATUS IN INDIA

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India has been under the British rule for a time much longer than the time we have been Independent. As a result, the Indian society has lived under the influence of the British culture for a long time as it takes time to bring about changes in our habits, norms and mindset. The British shammed Live-in Relationships and treated it as a taboo amongst the society. The Indian Society is now changing and moving toward fast growth and development. We have started recognising Live-in Relationships as a sign of love and maturity among two people who wish to live in co-habitation.  Our Courts have recognised the Concept of Live-in Relationships as equal status to Marriage. In the case of Mallika V/s Kulandai (2000 CRLJ 142) the Madras High Court held that Co-habitation of about Four (4) years to be sufficient to consider the relationship as marriage. A presumption of marriage may be drawn from this relationship in accordance of Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Our Courts have consistently favoured co-habitation. Many-a-times our Courts have held that, “the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years”.

“A relationship in the nature of marriage’ is akin to a common law marriage. Common law marriages require that although not being formally married: –

(a) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.

(b) They must be of legal age to marry

(c) They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried.

(d) They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.

In our opinion a `relationship in the nature of marriage’ under the 2005 Act must also fulfil the above requirements, and in addition the parties must have lived together in a `shared household’ as defined in Section 2(s) of the Act. Merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a `domestic relationship’” As held by the Apex Court in the case of Velusamy V/s D. Patchaiammal .

In the case of Khushboo v. Kanaimmal and Anr (2010 5 SCC 600), the Apex Court held that “a live-in relationship comes within the ambit of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Hence they are permissible and the act of living together cannot be considered as illegal or an offence.”

Another landmark case is that of Lata Singh v/s The Sate of U.P & anr. (AIR 2006 SC 2522), wherein it was observed that “a live-in relationship between two consenting adults of heterogenic sex does not amount to any offence (with the obvious exception of `adultery’), even though it may be perceived as immoral. A major girl is free to marry anyone she likes or “live with anyone she likes”.” 

Laws Relating to Live-in Relationships

The rights of the women in Live-in relationships are protected by the ‘Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (Domestic Violence Act)’ and under Section 125 of CrPC. Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 defines a domestic relationship as a relationship in the ‘nature of marriage’ between two people/adults living in a shared household.

Section 125 CrPC provides that a wife can claim for maintenance from her husband if he refuses to maintain her. As per the abovementioned cases, it is established that a woman living in co-habitation with a man for a long time shall be allowed maintenance from the man as also it was well settled in the case of Chanmuniya V/s Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha (2011 1 SCC 141) wherein the Supreme Court held that in case where a man has lived with a woman for a long time should be made liable to pay maintenance to the woman if he deserts her even though they may have not undergone legalities of a valid marriage.

We can observe that our Judiciary system has picked up pace in bringing our country at par with the fast evolving world. Although new concepts and ways of living may be introduced into the society, there is a quick evolution in our laws and Judiciary system which cater to every right and requirement and maintain value and justce within the society.

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