The Juxtaposed Situation Of Marriage And Live-in Relationships In India In The 21st Century

Introduction

In today’s world, things are changing rapidly and people are more inclined towards adopting the culture of other countries which fascinates them. In India western culture has been followed since many past years and live-in relationship is also part of such cultural change. Indian culture, values and traditions are losing its importance after Live-in relationships have started affecting the approach of youth towards it. The inroads in Indian society have been build because of adapting lifestyle of western countries.

The definition of Live-in Relationship is unclear with its erroneous interpretations existing all over the globe especially in India. If somewhere sometime in the Indian society if the word live-in relationship is uttered, then most people think of sex based relationships. People need to understand that relationships can be between parents, friends, brothers, sisters etc, but if western culture comes into play relationship means body based relationship. Relationships can be at many different levels but people tend to consider only one particular relationship so important against others which are couple relationship where woman and man live together with the sense of emotional and physical connectivity between them.

Live-in relationship is not even defined under The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also has not been given recognition under the Indian constitution.

Effects of live-in relationships

Youth is extracting benefits for the most part explicit purposes but not its profundity and sensitivity for which it is practiced in western countries.

Slowly and gradually, Indian youth is building the ideology of considering one relationship vs. the rest, it may not be so and the ideology should be changed and revived in a positive way where people understand the importance of each and every relationship they form in their life span.

Live-in can be interpreted as living in an uncommitted way. When there is a lack of commitment between partners in any kind of relationship principally live-in relationships, there is no real sense of respect for the other person’s body, views, thoughts etc.

In live-in relationships, there is no emotional security as anytime anywhere the partner can split out of the relationship bond they had formed in live-in relationships as there lies no law tying them which guarantees each partner’s rights in its true sense of personal liberty. It is well researched that when there is emotional and financial insecurity, one cannot concentrate on any work. People can never act in a positive and productive manner when there is absence of above mentioned securities within themselves.

Marriage laws, Nature of Marriage and its interpretations

In marriage, there may be a lot of ugliness in the situation sometimes even excessive amount of disputes occur between couples which leads to divorce but that is exceptional case and happens only when both the partners are unwilling to settle the disputes. Marriage is not just a mere sacred bond which binds two people to live together, but it is much more than the attachment of two people. Marriage creates bonds and relations within two families and so many people and sentiments are involved when the marriage takes place so it is not easy to break down such a rigid bond constructed between two families[1].

Marriage is not a fairy tale story happening nor it is an event exercised in heaven. It is just a mere truthful statement of commitment between couples.

Marriage also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially recognized union or contract between spouses that establishes certain rights and obligations towards each other which are enshrined in the constitution.

Considering the diverse culture in India, different laws and provisions have been framed which lays down the procedure and guidelines for the proper execution of marriages in various religions and regions in accordance with their personal will.

In the significant case of Chanmuniya vs. Virendra Kumar Singh Khushwaha (2011), Chanmuniya was legally married wife of Ram Saran, together they had 2 children. Afterward, Ram died and Chanmuniya married the younger brother of Ram, named Virendra Kumar with local ceremonies. After some period Virendra started harassing Chanmuniya and then Chanmuniya asked for maintenance. According to section 7 of Hindu Marriage Act (1955), the marriage was not legal and binding because of the absence of proper customary rites and ceremonies. Uttar Pradesh high court dismissed Chanmuniya’s plea and the matter went to Supreme Court. Supreme Court stated as per section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, maintenance is only available to legally wedded wife.

Later on, Supreme Court held that women in live-in relationships are also entitled to all the reliefs granted in section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure.

Legality of live-in relationships in India

The legal status of live-in relationship is still uncertain and undefined. Rights and obligations of the parties living in live-in relationships are not mentioned under Indian law. Also, the status of children born during such relationships is ambiguous. Therefore, for providing certainty and clarification to such a relationship various judgments have been passed by the court. Court has logically stated that partners cohabiting with each other for much longer time will be considered as legal live-in relationship[2].

In the case of S.P.S. Balasubramanyam vs. Suruttayan (1994), Supreme Court held that there will be a presumption of marital relationships where a man and women are living under the same roof, ground under section 114 of Indian Evidence Act. Also, the children born out of such cohabitation will be legitimate and no one can question the existence of those children.

In Indra Sharma vs. V.K. Sharma (2013), Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan stated that live-in relationship is neither illegal nor a crime in the eyes of law though not acceptable by Indian society. Each one has the right to live and it’s their personal choice[3].

Subsequently, the Supreme Court in its judgment laid down certain guidelines which will prove the validity of live-in relationships in India. These are:

  • Domestic relationship between adults, when both the gender is unmarried is sorted relationship.
  • Domestic relationship between a married male and unmarried female, with mutual consent.
  • Conviction under section 497 of Indian Penal Code, where domestic relationship persists between married women and unmarried man knowingly.
  • Domestic relationship between unmarried women and married man unknowingly.
  • Domestic relationship between same sex partners.

The court further stated section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 will govern the concept of live-in relationship which falls under the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage”.

In S. Khushboo vs. Kanniamal and others, (2010), Supreme Court dropped all the charges against the petitioner. The charges were sections 509 and 292(1) of Indian Penal Code (1860). The court was of the view that living together was legal irrespective of the fact that it was immoral for the conservative Indian society.

In the year 2008, on 30th June, National Commission For Women put forward their views to Ministry Of Women And Child Development to include women in live-in relationship to be categorized under section 125 CRPC and should be considered as wife who has lived with man for a reasonable period. Maharashtra government sanctioned the proposal to give legal status to women in live-in relationships[4].

In landmark case of Veluswamy vs. Patchaimal (2010), Supreme Court judgment laid down certain parameters which will determine the live-in relationship existed or not. It provides that to be considered under live-in relationship and claim relief under the same the couple must have cohabited for a certain or significant period, must be above 21 years of age, and must be unmarried.

Therefore if a couple is living only for financial or sexual benefits from each other, then the women will need vital evidence to prove that they were in live-in relationship to get such benefit of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Merely spending nights will not amount to live-in relationships[5].

To conclude

Law commission accompanied with Malimath committee 2003 suggested that relief and maintenance to women in live-in relationship should by now specified[6] as they are also entitled for maintenance under section 125 Criminal Procedure Code if found legally practicing live-in relationship with evidence and cannot be called mistress which can lead to defamation.

There is a huge load on human conscience where the mind keeps fluctuating between what is right and what is wrong. This picture needs to be cleared by analyzing the needs and requirements of the society and then welcoming advanced foreign culture. One’s conduct can be regulated through crucial instruments known as law and society.

Well-established law needs to define the rights and obligations of women and legitimacy of child born out of such relationship as its legal status is ambiguous. Law needs to differentiate the couples on the basis of duration they spend in live-in relationships which makes the distinction between the legally wedded couple and presumed legally married couple.

With the change, needs change in the mindset of the society. The government needs to assure proper and organized layout of live-in relationship concept persisting in India with permanent and stable provision engraved in the constitution while ensuring the respect, dignity and sentiments remain safeguarded of those conservative people who are against the live-in relationships and desire to continue following their old traditions and culture.

[1] https://www.legalbites.in/live-in-relationships/

[2] http://www.penacclaims.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Divya-Singh.pdf

[3] https://www.lawyersclubindia.com/articles/landmark-judgments-live-in-relationship-sc-s-judgments-concerning-the-legal-standing-of-live-in-relationships-14068.asp

[4] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/ncw-pleads-case-of-live-in-partners/story-QlUkFC76vsLYlsd1eAihUI.html

[5] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/161477/

[6] http://www.penacclaims.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Divya-Singh.pdf

This article has been written by Dhruv Kumar, BBA. LLB. (Corporate Law) student at University Of Petroleum And Energy Studies.

Also Read – Can Unmarried Girl Live-in with Married Man?

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