We are living in a modern era but still live- in relationships are considered as immoral and unethical. India has been witnessing changes and in the similar way the present generation perceive their relationships. In general sense, live-in relationship means a man and women staying together under one roof without being married, in a legally accepted way, but which is considered a taboo in India. Moreover for many of us it is not an escape from the responsibilities or family issues but a medium to figure out the compatibility between the partners so that they could know each other more and recognize a way of whether they can make their relationship work or not. This relationship states that getting married is not important to test your bond, which court accepts it but society doesn’t. Live- in relationships are not new for our society but it’s acceptance among people is growing on a slow pace. This article anticipates judicial response in this matter and the current legal positions governing live- in relationships in India and analyzing a systematic assessment of these judgments as in the absence of specific legislations, rules and act for it, what all relief Supreme Court has issued with certain guidelines in its judgment for regulating such relationships. The Indian society has witnessed so many drastic changes in the past few years, accepted and started to adapt in these changes, one that major change is staying in live- in relationship before marrying, for which people are slowly and gradually opening their minds and thoughts towards the idea of pre- marital sex or cohabitation. The reason behind couples choosing to have these kind of relationships is to stay away from family drama and to figure out on their own whether their relation is fit for them or not, a live-in relationship not only gives the couple a opportunity to know each other more without having to engage into a legally binding relationship but also excludes from the lengthy court procedures to split-up. It involves continuous cohabitation between the partners without any burden or responsibility in a legally accepted way and sharing a common household with each other’s responsibility. With no strings attached and no holds barred , there are no such demarcated rights and duties upon the partners involved, thus the parties enjoys the liberty to walk out of their relationship with legal hassel.
In the case of Indra Sharma v/s V.K.V.Sharma, defined live-in relationships- A domestic cohabitation between an adult unmarried male and an adult unmarried female. This is the simplest kind of relationship.
There have many incidents that have been reported and seen where partners in live-in relationships or a child born out of such relationship have remained vulnerable for the very simple reason that such relationships have been kept outside the realm of law. There has been undisguised misuse by the partners in live-in relationships since they do not have any duties and responsibilities to perform, nor do they have any legal obligations in their way.
Mentality behind Live-in relationship
With changing practices, mindset of people should also be changed. Indians believe live- in relationship as a sin and the couples are not treated well on both the basis individually and together, lack of family support, criticism by everyone and humiliation have becoming the essentials of denial by family and society. This has been found that almost all the couples pursuing live-in relationship are willing to get married someday, but before getting into a binding commitment , they want to test their bond first as they believe if they found themselves incompatible after marriage than they will have no choice other than compromising their life- styles. There is no law binding the partners together, and there is no legal definition of live–in relationship. Today many traditional communities are heading who opposes these relationships; they find it against their religious concerns and social foundations, but it has to be understood that the emotional bindings and relationships can never be pressed by power, and this concept should be entertained rationally. If youngsters are getting influenced with this concept than ethical communities of the world should also change their way of perspective to keep it original and rational. In-spite of threatening people about live-in relationships, they need to lay hand for their support and help them to lead their way towards making their relation healthier and socially acceptable.
JUDICIAL RESPONSE ON THIS CONCEPT
Indian Judiciary has taken a huge and lead step to fill in the gap that was earlier created in absence of any specific statue or legislative order relating to live- in relationships. In Indian jurisprudence live-in relationship concept were typically passed via the concept of common law marriage where a couple was believed to be married if the partners were otherwise eligible to get married, cohabited voluntarily and held themselves out as married before the society. If the couple stays together for a long term in a live-in relationship, they are assumed to be married, stated by SC. Therefore any decision of the judiciary is been taken by keeping societal norms and constitutional values in mind and abiding by the law. In the case of A. Dinohamy v W. L. Balahamy, where a man and a lady are proved to have lived respectively as spouse, the law will presume, unless the opposite be obviously demonstrated that they were living respectively in result of a legitimate marriage, and not in a condition of concubinage. Later the SC in its judgment in Badri Prasad v. Director of Consolidation gave its legal validity to 50- year live-in relationship. In the landmark case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal the Supreme Court held that a living relationship comes within the ambit of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Court further held that live-in relationships are permissible and the act of two major living together cannot be considered illegal or unlawful. Recently on May 12,2021the Punjab and Haryana High Court refused to grant the protection of a young couple that had moved to court in the fear of threats received by the girl’s family members and said that ‘if such protection as claimed is granted , the entire social fabric of the society would get disturbed’.
Both the couples were major and decided to enter into a live-in relationship, they came to seek the protection of life and liberty from their family. Here , the court further observed that there was no difference as the couple fear for their safety from relatives in both situations and not from the society and thus, they are entitled to the same relief. The court also observed their right under Article 21, that the said rights includes the right of an individual to the full development with in accordance to their choice and wish. There has been recurring changes taken place for the matter of live in relationships, starting from Apr 10,2021 , where Kerala High Court stated that ‘Child born out of live-in relationship to be treated as child born to married couple for the purposes of surrendering a child for adoption under Juvenile Justice. In a recent case, where Punjab and Haryana High Court denied the protection for couples, a week after that the court granted protection to the couple stating that ‘ live- in relationships not prohibited; such persons are entitled to equal protection of laws and at last on May 21, 2021 , the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that although the concept of a live-in relationship may not be acceptable to all, it cannot be said that such a relationship is an illegal one or that it constitutes an offence. Continuing the judgment on May 24, 2021 , another news came that whether court is required to grant protection to couples in live- in relationship and regarding this court will determine that without examining the marital status and the other circumstances of the case, protection should be granted to two persons living together or not. The latest judgment by this court in COVID-19 pandemic not only shocks the human rights activists and the youths, but it also degrades the judicial temperament of constitutional courts; which is far away from Legal Rights granted to Indian Citizens.
PROTECTION AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
Children born out of live-in relationship are not illegitimate , Says SC
Court judgments have always given broad interpretation of law to protect the rights of women and children. In live-in relationships, court judgments have considered it important to protect child rights, in particular. In the year 2008, Supreme Court has clearly stated that children born out of live-in relationships are legitimate and have the right over the property. Justice P Sathasivam and Justice BS Chauhan of the Supreme Court passed the judgment in 2010 and it will have strong legal implications on disputes relating to the legitimacy of children who are born to live-in partners. However the couples doesn’t have a right to adopt kids.
Maintenance of Lady partner
The right of maintenance is available to wives under all personal laws as well as Hindu law in India. However, none of the religions and socialist recognizes and accepts live-in relationships, and since no such remedy or relief is granted to women involved in a live-in relationship, Indian Courts have widened the scope of maintenance under the Criminal Procedure Code. Therefore, Section- 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code has been provided to give a legal right of maintenance to lady partners in or out of a marriage. Section 125 of Crpc elaborates that if a female has been in a live-in relationship for a sensible period of time, she ought to have the legitimate privileges as that a of a spouse and can claim maintenance under Section 125 Crpc.
Domestic Violence Act, 2005 applicable to live-in relationships
Section 2(f) of Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PDV Act, 2005) defines domestic relationship as “a relationship between two persons who live or have lived together, at any point of time, in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family. Domestic Violence Act was enforced to protect women from abusive marital relationships. They are basically applied to married couples, but also to a relationship in nature of marriage, but all live-ins do not qualify as relationship in the nature of marriage.
From casual ‘walk-in-walk-out’ cohabitation relationships verging on concubinage. This distinction was made by the Supreme Court in Madan Mohan Singh v Rajni Kant where the Court also recognized a live-in relationship as conceptually broader than a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’. The question of application of the PDV Act, 2005 to the live-in relationships came into the consideration of the Supreme Court in the case of “Lalita Toppo vs State of Jharkhand.” It was held that the victim, that is, the estranged wife or the live-in partner would be entitled relief under the Act in a shared household. In the case of D.Velusamy v/s D. Patchaiam Jindal The court held that not all relationships will amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage and get the benefit of the Domestic Violence Act. It further clarified that, if a man keeps his woman as a servant or treats in the same manner, although maintaining her financially and mainly uses her for sexual purposes, such relationship would not be considered as marriage in the court of law. Therefore to get such benefit the conditions mentioned by the Court must be satisfied, and has to be proved by evidence.
Live in relationship has always been a issue in debate as it possess threats in the societal framework, but everyone needs to understand that illegality is different from immorality, and live in concept doesn’t harms the norms or values but is a modern medium to settle and figure out personal relations, as society has their own perception which in no case will be allowed to influence anyone else’s personal decisions, no doubt couples faces many social and legal hurdles and often puts women in a disadvantageous positions. The Supreme Court has issued some guidelines and reliefs for such couples for regulating such relationships and also for protecting the rights of women involved in the relationship and children born out of it, which has been described above. There have been recurring changes in the matter of live-in relationship, by the courts judgment where courts declined to make any kind of positive steps towards legalizing such practice.
From a psychiatrist or counsellors point of view, what is more important element is to get engaged into a positive, respected, lovable, and meaningful relationship than to remain alone or remain trapped in an unhappy, negative, and troublesome relationship, which is very important in today’s scenario to understand their partners more with whom they are planning to live their entire life. Moral policing cannot be permitted, especially when the arrangement has the endorsement from the touchstone of fundamental rights.
Judiciary has done its job to ensure needs to accommodate with the changing scenario of the society and adapt to all the modernization activities or culture taking place. At the same time, the youngsters coming into a relationship should have the awareness regarding the legal consequences arising out of such living arrangements. The core motive of this article is that the most important concomitants of any relationship are love, trust and mutual respect. The existence of these make any relationship blissful, irrespective of the societal sanction of marriage. Therefore it is our responsibility to support and to keep changing with the time.
CRPC BOOK- Ratanlal & Dhirajlal's the Code of Criminal Procedure (Act II of 1974)
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BOOK- ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
B.B.A LL.B- 6th SEM
JAGRAN LAKECITY UNIVERSITY