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India has witnessed a drastic change in the last decade in the way the [present generation perceive their relationships. The taboo that used to haunt partners in live-in relationships has also started to fade away with society opening up about the idea of pre-martial sex and live in relationships. Today’s generation is hanging between two important words i.e. Marriage and live in relationship or Cohabitation. Marriage, commonly known as Shaadi in India, is also called wedlock and is a social/ritual contract between the spouses and their families. India being a diverse country, different laws have been framed which lay down the procedures and guidelines for execution of marriage.

For different religion different set of rules are made. For Hindu marriage were Satpati ( Seven Pheras) or Saspinda are followed. The conditions for valid Hindu marriage is stated under Sec 5 of hindu marriage act. And for inter caste marriage i.e. Hindu or Muslims or Christian or any other religion (visa versa), special marriage act is made. Thus, marriage is considered as sacred ritual in India. But now a days a new trend has arisen known as live in relationship or cohabitation relation. When two people live together as husband and wife they are known as living in a cohabitation relation.

In other words, when two individuals live together under the same roof but both partners enjoy individual freedom without being married to each other. It involves continues cohabitation between the parties without any responsibilities or obligations towards one another. The Supreme Court in Lata Singh v. State of UP held that live in relationship is permissible only in unmarried major persons of heterosexual sex. The live in relationship if continued for such a long time, cannot be termed in as walk in and walk out relationship and there is a presumption of marriage between them.

Initially there is no law which bind them together, therefore, they can walk out of the relationship whenever they want to. Even the status of children born from this relationship is also unclear. Therefore, the apex court has provided clarity over this issue through various judgments. The right to maintenance in live in relationship is decided by the court in accordance with the domestic violence act 2005.

The apex court in so many of its judgments has stated that if a man and a woman “ lived like husband wife” in a long-term relationship and even had children, the judiciary would presume that the two were married and same laws would be applicable. In another instance, the apex court even declared that for a man and a woman in love to live together is part of the right to life and not a “criminal offence”. Therefore, live in relationships are legal in India.

The Supreme Court in D. Veluswamy v. D. Patchiammal has observed that a distinction has been drawn between the ‘relationship of marriage’ and the ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ by the parliament and has provided benefits under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Therefore, marriage and live in relationship have been recognized as different aspects in altogether by the Indian Judiciary.

Written By: Ms. Garima Aggarwal, 3rd Year Law Student, Gitarattan International Business School, IPU, Delhi, Law Intern at S. Bhambri & Associates (Advocates), Delhi.

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