The Indian society has observed a drastic change in its living pattern in the past few years.People are slowly and gradually opening their minds towards the idea of pre-marital intimacy and live-in relationships.However,this change has been continuously criticised as such concepts lack legality and acceptance by the society.
As in India,only those relations between a man and a woman are considered to be legitimate where marriage has taken place between the two otherwise all other sorts of relationships are deemed to be illegitimate.
As such there is no particular law regarding the matter of live-in relationships in India.Therefore,the Indian law does not give any rights or obligations to the parties of live-in relationships.
However,with changing social norms of legitimacy,the Indian judiciary has taken a lead to fill the gap that was created in absence of any specific statute relating to live-in relationships.The intention of Indian judiciary is to render justice to the partners of live-in relationships who,were earlier not protected by any statute when subjected to any abuse arising out of such relationships.In short,Judiciary is neither expressly promoting concept nor prohibiting such sort of relationships.The major concern is that there should not be any miscarriage of justice.
Therefore,while deciding various cases,the judiciary has kept in mind various factors including both societal norms and constitutional values.
Some of the judgements on live-in relationships are briefly discussed below-
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- 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 unlawful or illegal.
- Gurwinder Singh & Anr. v. The State of Punjab & Ors.-In the leading case of the Punjab & Haryana HC ,it was observed that live-in relationships are morally and socially not acceptable.The petitioner couple moved to the HC seeking directions to Punjab police to grant protection from their families.The case was heard by a single judge-bench of Justice HS Madaan who turned down the plea by the petitioners,who also expressed that they intend to get married soon.
- In Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma ,the Supreme Court laid down the conditions for live-in relationships that can be given the status of marriage.
A two-Judge bench of the Supreme Court constituting of K.S.P.Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose held that “when the woman is aware of the fact that the man with whom she is in a live-in relationship and who already has a legally wedded wife and two children,is not entitled to various beliefs available to a legally wedded wife and also to those who enter into a relationship in the nature of marriage” as per provisions of Pwda 2005.
- In a landmark judgement of Dhannu Lal v. Ganeshram ,the Supreme Court decided that couples living in live-in relationships will be presumed legally married.It was also held that the woman in the relationship would be eligible to inherit the property after the death of her partner.
- In a leading case of Koppisetti Subbharao v. State of A.P. ,the Supreme Court held that the classification “dowry” has no magical charm.It alludes to a request of cash in connection to a conjugal relationship.The court hasn’t accepted the contention of the defendant, since he was not legally married to the complainant.
Section 498 A did not make a difference to him in a stage ahead in shielding the lady from badgering for dowry in a live-in relationship.
- In S.P.S Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan,the Supreme Court had said, “If a man and woman are living under the same roof and cohabiting for some years,there will be a presumption under Section 114 of the Evidence Act that they live as husband and wife and the children born to them will not be illegitimate.”
Further,the Court interpreted the status and legislation to an extent that it shows conformity from Article 39(f) of the Constitution of India which sets out the obligation of the State to give the children adequate opportunity so that they develop in proper manner and further safeguard their interest.
This was the first time in which SC gave its verdict upon the legitimacy of children born out of live-in relationships.
- A recent case Tulsa v. Durghatiya on the legitimacy of children in live-in relationships,the Supreme Court held that a child born out of such a relationship will no longer be considered as an illegitimate child.
The important precondition of such should be that the parents must have lived under one roof and cohabited for a significantly long time for the society to recognise them as husband and wife and it should not be a “walk-in and walk-out” relationship.
- In Bharatha Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan,the Supreme Court held that a child born out of a live-in relationship may be allowed to inherit the property of the parents(if any) and therefore be given legitimacy in the eyes of law.
- A special Bench of the Supreme Court of India consisting of G.S.Singhvi,Asok Kumar Ganguly in Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun remarked that irrespective of the relationship between parents,birth of a child out of such a relationship has to be viewed independently of the relationship of the parents.As it is clear that the child born out of such relationship is innocent and is entitled to all the rights and privileges available to children born out of valid marriages.
Written By Aditi Batra- Intern