Marriage is considered to be a sacred union between two people as per Hindu personal law and marriage is a contract with the purpose of procreation of children as per Muslim personal laws. Marriage has been given so much importance in society that people end up spending crores and crores of rupees on it. One constant question that people ask when an individual has reached his/her 20’s is about when
he/she is getting married, especially in India. With marriage comes great responsibilities and even greater commitment. People these days especially the younger generation is not very open to the idea of marriage due to the responsibility and face several commitment issues. So they resort to live-in relationships.
“Instead of getting a divorced life, it is easier to have a live-in relationship! This is a traditional and very logical line that favors world-wide live-in relationships. Living in relationships is not new to Western countries, but the practice is also shifting its origins in the East these days. Live-in relationships are very common these days and they are very different compared to the conventional system of marriage. It is when
two people live together without being married to each other and are involved in a romantic and sexual relationship with each other. It is due to its unconventional nature that the concept of live-in relationship is frowned upon by the society we live in. This causes a lot of friction between the couples staying in a live-in relationship and the society.
In modern times live-in relationships are considered to be more apt considering the fast pace at which relationships move on and where marriage is considered to be a huge commitment which are lot of young people are not willing to
Since the society has not completely adapted the system of live-in relationships there is no legal status as such that has been given to such relationships. Since these relationships are not full-fledged legally recognized there are only a few laws that can be applied to such relationships. Hence there are many problems that are faced by people staying in a live-in relationship. In order to make people accept the concept of live-in relationships, it is very important that a special legislation is created specifically for live-in relationships that clearly mentions the rights and liabilities of the people entering into live-in relationships and their legal status in society.
There are various Supreme Court judgments that have been in favor of live-in relationships and certain provisions from personal laws and other existing laws have been applied to such relationships. However, this causes a lot of ambiguity in interpreting laws. There has to be a certain mechanism to govern such matters in order to avoid.
Why do people opt for live-in relationships?
Live-in relationships are becoming very convenient these days. In this form of partnership, without being married, the couples get time to know each other. They come to know each other better in this way, and compatibility is observed. The pair agrees on the future if the partnership works, then they probably end up getting married. For couples who do not wish to get married, it is a good and healthy choice.
If the couple is not comfortable with each other, they have the right to get in and out of the relationship at any moment.
One of the powerful pros of a live-in-relationship is that the couple enjoys all the advantages common to a married couple. This type of relationship even includes being in a physical intimate relationship. Prior to getting married, it is a rehearsal session. By staying in a live-in relationship, when you stay together all day, you come to know the positive and bad sides of your partner. This way, it becomes easy to determine whether both of you are meant for each other or not. Most individuals appear to downplay their evil side during the dating process. The live-in idea blows off the true side of your partner and helps you to know him/her inside out. If you’re not a good mix, it’s best to be part ways.
Live-in relationships are considered socially and morally unacceptable in India, although they are not illegal. Cohabitation is prevalent mostly among individuals living in Indian metro cities. In India, there is currently no special legislation dealing with the definition of live-in partnerships and their legality. Some people may also prefer to cohabit because they see their relationships as personal and private matters and because they do not have political, social, matriarchal, or patriarchal structures to govern them. Some couples choose cohabitation because it does not legally commit them for a prolonged period, and because it is easy to create and break without the legal costs often associated with a divorce. However, through their rulings in different cases, the courts in India have laid down the law in relation to such relationships in some of its landmark judgments.
In the question hour on 15 December 2008, Mr. H.R. Bhardwaj, then Hon’ble Union Law Minister, referring to the live-in-relationships question, said that if live-in relationships are appropriate to society, then laws can be made by the government. Laws are made to keep social patterns in mind. It is hypothetical to raise a question about whether a rule regulating live-in partnerships is being considered. Less than one
percent of individuals are in such arrangements. It can only be misused if a law is passed.
Recognition of live-in relationships
The definition of live-in Relationships with respect to the Domestic Violence Act was clarified by the Supreme Court in D Velusamy vs D Patchaiammal. Having noted the specific provisions in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, the court pointed out that the word ‘domestic relationship’ involves not only a marital relationship but also a marital relationship. Sadly, this concept has not been specified in the Act. Since there is no clear judgement of this Court on the meaning of this term, we conclude that it is appropriate to interpret it because there will be a large number of cases before the courts of our country on this issue, and thus an authoritative judgement is appropriate.
Therefore, the question arises as to what is the significance of the term ‘a relationship in the form of marriage’. At present, no statute discusses the notion of live-in-relationships and their legality. “Even in the absence of clear legislation on the issue, it is praiseworthy that all benefits are provided to women living in such an arrangement under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, since they are protected under the word “domestic relationship” under Section 2(f). If we propose to pass a law governing live-in-relationships, although it would give parties rights, but at the same time enforce responsibilities on them as well. Female live-in spouses have economic rights under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.
Live-in-relationship is not recognised by the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. The Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 does not, either.
On the other hand, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA) states that an aggrieved live-in partner can be awarded alimony under the Act for the purpose of providing protection and maintenance to women. Under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, the fundamental right grants all its people the right to life and personal freedom, which means that one is free to live the way one wishes. In the eyes of the conservative Indian community, live-in relationship may be unethical and immoral, but in the eyes of law it is not illegal.
Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, states that if there is no independent evidence of marriage solemnization, it will be assumed to be a legitimate marriage by continuous cohabitation between the spouses, unless it is proven otherwise. Live-in relationship is a contractual association. There is offer and agreement between parties to live in relationships in order to frame such relationship within the framework of
law. In order to deal with the implications of such a relationship, we need special legal laws.
Judicial Decisions regarding live-in relationships
In S. Khushboo Vs. Kanniammal & Anr, the Supreme Court of India held that only unmarried persons of heterogeneous sex are allowed to live in relationships. On 13 August 2010, the Supreme Court, in the case of Madan Mohan Singh & Ors v. Rajni Kant & Anr. The dispute on the validity of the Live-in Relationship and the legitimacy of the child born out of such a partnership has once again entered the controversy. While rejecting the appeal in the property dispute, the Court held that
There is a presumption of marriage between those who have long been in a live-in relationship, and this cannot be defined as a relationship between ‘walking-in and walking-out.’
In Bharata Matha and Ors v. R. Vijaya and Ors,’ the Supreme Court held that
Dealing with the validity of a child born out of a live-in relationship and his succession of property rights, the child born out of a live-in relationship may be permitted to succeed in the parents’ property if any, but has no claim against ancestral Hindu coparcenary property.
On 4 March 2002, the Allahabad High Court issued a bold judgment in Payal Katara v. Superintendent of Nari Niketan, Agra, stating that anybody, man or woman, could live together even without getting married if they wished. On 15 January 2008, when a bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and P. Sathasivam leaned in favour of legitimizing a live-in couple as they had lived together for 30 years, the Apex Court took a similar measure.
In A Dinohamy v. W L Blahamy, the Privy Council established the principle that where a man and a woman are shown to have lived together as a man and a wife, the law would assume, unless it is explicitly proven otherwise, that they were living together as a result of a legitimate marriage and not in a state of concubinage.
Moreover, a marriage in which the couple cohabited together for a span of 50 years was given legitimacy and validity by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that marriage is presumed to be a product of long cohabitation in such a situation. The Hon’ble Supreme Court acknowledged the idea that it is comparable to a legitimate marital partnership due to a long cohabitation period in a live-in relationship. The Supreme Court also ruled that it is not possible to view live-in partnerships as an offence since there is no legislation specifying the same. Therefore, in a variety of judgments rendered until recently, the High Courts and the Honorable Supreme Court have shown promising signs of acknowledging the validity of live-in partnerships and have also shown the propensity to pass legislation with the aim of securing the rights of couples in a live-in relationship.
It is high time that people follow the idea of live and let live in the society instead of imposing conventional cultural norms and rule on the present generation. There is definitely a need to have special legislation that deals with live-in relationships as more and more people are following that particular lifestyle in this dynamic environment. Similarly, law needs to evolve as per the needs and wants of the society instead of being stagnant. In fact, our society needs to start accepting the decisions taken by individuals instead of bringing the concept of morality into the picture.
This article has been written by Ashwati Dinesh Kottayi, BBA.LLB (Hons) student at Amity Law School, Mumbai.
Also Read – Can Unmarried Girl Live-in with Married Man?