[Authors: Samir Prasad Ram & Vivek Toppo – National law University, Odisha]
Every day some new things are coming into existence, in the same way, an alternative to forming marriage i.e. cohabitation or live-in relationship came into the picture. Since our country, India is a developing country and is highly influenced by Western cultures and norms, hence it gave rise to a concept of live-in relationship.
A live-in relationship is an arrangement between two parties where a couple resides under the same roof, it does resemble that of marriage but like in marriage couples are bound by certain obligations over here those obligations don’t bind to a couple staying in a live-in relationship. Under the eyes of the law, the concept of a live-in relationship doesn’t stand void since an individual decides to go for that and through personal civil rights, a couple intending so can go for it. There are many hurdles for a couple going for this live-in concept, they have to confront many challenges throughout this journey as live-in relationships in India are unacceptable from the social point of view but unlike legal perception. It’s a completely new way of leading life and it does set up new areas in the men-women relationship. Well, there is nothing wrong with the concept of a live-in relationship since it’s neither a crime nor a sin; despite its social unacceptance. Furthermore, since Western culture is being adapted in India and followed there shouldn’t be any harm to this concept as it comes under the western category.
Until now there is no such uniform civil code to govern and define live-in relationships while talking about marriages for most of the time it has been observed that marriages are being governed by the personal laws of every individual. Well, the legislature does not specifically recognize such relationships; however courts in India have repeatedly affirmed the legitimacy of such relationships by highlighting certain fundamental principles related to them while distinguishing morality from law. The constitution of India has ensured certain fundamental rights and freedoms to all citizens. The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression comes under article 19 it also has a connection to either reside or settle in any part within the territory of India. Not talking about the right to life comes around article 21 of the Indian constitution which confers the right to life to every person. If a person wishes to stay with his/her partner of their choice and therefore creates a physical relationship with that respective person then it is governed by the above-mentioned law which is rights and freedoms. Nevertheless, it has to be kept in mind that such offered rights aren’t absolute.
Constitutional Protection to Live-In Relationship
We are not denying the fact that marriage in India is an important social activity but we need to understand that some people do not or maybe not interested in this activity. We need to understand that there is a certain number of people who believe that sexual relation before marriage is normal but its quite hard to make it explain to society. Even if the court takes some actions regarding these issues it will lead to the violation of Article 21 which is the right to life and personal liberty and violation of the right to privacy.
In Payal Sharma Vs Sudpt., the court held that “a lady about 21 years of age being a major has right to go anywhere and to live with anyone”.
In the case of Indra Sharma v. V.K.V Sharma, the Hon’ble Supreme court held that a live-in relationship is neither a crime nor a sin, despite it is unacceptable by society and further whether to marry or not or going for sexual intimate relationship is something personal.
In the case of S.Khushboo v. Kanniammal , it was held that a living relationship comes under the light of Article 21 of the Indian constitution which talks about the right to life. hence it was further held by the supreme court that a live-in relationship is permissible only if both the persons have attained the age of majority and such act cannot be considered as unlawful.
Putting the light on a landmark case which is Late Singh Vs. State of UP the supreme court held that “a live-in relationship between two consenting adults of heterogenic sex does not amount to any offence even though it may be perceived as immoral. A major girl is free to marry anyone she likes, or live with anyone she likes”.
As we see in most of the cases the judgments are providing positive scenarios towards the live-in relationship, not denying the fact that the view of our society is that sexual contact are acceptable only after marriage but we need to understand that it is immoral to society but it’s not a crime.
Currently, there are no such provisions present but By enacting the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (hereafter referred to as ‘the Act’) Parliament of India has taken notice of a new social phenomenon that has emerged in our country known as live-in relationship
Live-in relationship and the Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Although a Live-in relationship is not mentioned in law Indian legislature does care of this act for the security of women. The legislature has given protection to all those women living with a man even without marriage under the domestic violence act.
If we quote section 2(f) of the domestic violence act 2005, it defines “Domestic relationship means a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship like marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family”
Section 125 CrPC was incorporated to, “avoid vagrancy and destitution for a wife/minor child/old age parents, and the same has now been extended by judicial interpretation to partners of a live-in relationship”. (Ajay Bhardwaj v. Jyotsna)
There is no specific law related to the Live-in relationship, and there are many problems that need solutions. We need to consider that children’s rights must be secured in this situation. There is an urgent need for law related to the Live-in relationship and rights of both partners. Below are some suggested laws which need to be considered –
- Giving legal status to Live-in relationship, Providing legal status to live-in relationship solve half of the problem, we all know that live-in is not illegal but it is also not legal in the eyes of law.
- Protection to couples who are in a live-in relationship, The court needs to give protection to couples if they are feeling unsafe while in live-in as live-in relationship peoples are easy target of society, it is immoral to society but we need to respect everyone’s decision and this is also moral.
- Fixing a proper or say minimum age for couples
- while making laws, formalities will be easier if there is a fixed age or minimum age in which a male or female is legally allowed to be in a live-in relationship.
- Care for women security, No matter what kind of relationship it is but in many cases women suffered, by protecting women in this relationship will decrease the graph of domestic violence against women.
(2014) 5 SCC (Civ) 440.
 (2010) 5SCC 600
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