Live-In Relationships in India

Live in relationship is more of a westernized theory with very less relevance with the Indian tradition. There is no legal definition to describe the concept in Indian law. A live in relationship couple are the one who cohabit with no expectations being the bottom line.
The Supreme Court at various instances took the liberty to elaborate on the concept through their judgments. It is different from a marriage. Live in relationship partners do not force on obligations.
As long as they are of legal consent age for marriage, a consensual relationship and of sound mind, they have right to live with the person they like as held by Supreme Court in various judgements. This is matter of Right to life and personal liberty and so outside the control of State or family.


Marriage vs Live-in Relationship

Right to Marriage

Right to Marriage is a fundamental right. It is a part of Right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. Any adult of a sound mind have right to choose their partner. They need not be forces by their family, state , government or law to choose their partner.

  • Also, within the scope of right to start a family, the right to marriage is also specified in the Human Rights Charter. The Right to marry is a Universal right that applies to everyone, regardless of gender. The freedom to marry has also been viewed as an intrinsic aspect of the Right to life under Article 21 by several courts around the country.
  • The personal laws such as Hindu laws, Muslim law, Christian law etc. govern and protect the marital bond of a recognised couple. Live in relationships being an alien concept to the Indian legislature does not have any legal implication for the couple who live together without marriage involved in the relationship. However the Supreme Court at various instances recognized live-in relationship.
  • The child being born out of live in relationship are treated as illegitimate child , unacceptable by the society. However the Honorable Supreme Court cleared them of this ill-fated and granted them the status of legitimate child along with the right to property.

What do you mean by Live in relationship ?

The idea of live in relationship evolves from the broadened mindset of the people who started to crave for a relationship with no strings attached.
When a couple decides to cohibit or live in the same home without marriage or legal or social obligations of marriage. It could be a couple who like each other, share same interests , draw emotional support from each other and ofcourse sexual angle.

Legality of Live-in relationship

  • Until 1978, Live-in relationship were legally considered void ab initio.
  • In 1978, Supreme Court recognised Live-in relationship for the first time in the case of

Badri Prasad vs Dy. Director of Consolidation, 1978 SC

The supreme court held that live in relationships in India are legal but subject to caveats like age of marriage,consent and soundness of mind. If the requisites of a marriage such as mental soundness, the fullfilment of the legal age of marriage, consent of parties etc. are satisfied, the couple is considered to be in a legal Live-in relationship.

Indira Sarma vs V.K.V. Sarma, 2013 SC

The apex court stated that live in relationships falls within the ambit of section 2(f) of the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act,2005 that provides an insight into the said concept.
Even a woman in live-in relationships can be provided protection under sec 2(f) and thereby recognising live-in relationships and protecting rights of couple who are in such relationships.
In live-in relationships, the facets of the relationship might come to a conclusion, irrespective of any decision made by the couple.

Landmark Judgements:

Joseph Shine vs Union of India, 2018 SC

Supreme Court of India decriminalised adultery defined under section 497 of Indian penal code. The court held the states police power cannot be used for punishing individual moral aberrations. Also Court held "Fidelity is a value, but not one that the state should police".

Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India, 2018 SC

The Supreme Court of India substantially struck down Section 377 of IPC dealing with same sex relations. The Supreme Court made a constitutional adjudication rather than mere moral judgement keeping principles of liberty, equality and Right to life of individuals.

Lata Singh vs State of U.P and anr, 2006 SC

The court directed police authorities throughout the country to see to it that any adult undergoing inter caste or inter religious marriage is not harassed by anyone.

S Khushboo vs K. and anr, 2010 SC

The Supreme Court restating personal liberty held that while it is true that the mainstream view in our society is that the sexual contact should take place only between marital partners, there is no statutory of takes place when adults willingly engage in sexual relation outside the marital setting.

Kiran Rawat vs State of UP, 2023

The recent case deals with interfaith Live-in relationship wherein an interfaith couple applied for protection from police. The Allahabad High Court in this case declined the appeal by an interfaith couple in a live in relationship for protection from police against harassment. The high court in its judgement implied that the live in relationship is a social problem.
Due to conservative and orthodox nature of the judgement, this case attracted national attention. The judgement negates the very idea of constitutional morality and personal relations which the Supreme Court of India has repeatedly affirmed.

Scratch your head and draw a conclusion based on your understanding whether Live-in relationships should be given legal sanction or not?

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