Live-in-relationship: Legal perspective and Problem

Reading time : 10 minutes

  • Introduction:

India has seen a monumental shift within the way this generation perceives romantic relationships. The taboos regarding sleep in relationships have begun to fade out with society opening up about the thought. The changed mindset could be a byproduct of increased freedom, privacy, education and globalization.

This concept has slowly paved its way within the Indian scenario yet. However, such relationships are considered a taboo within the Indian society. Although the status of board relationships in India is unclear, the Supreme Court has ruled that any couple habitation for an extended term is presumed as legally married unless proved otherwise. Thus, the aggrieved live-in partner can take shelter under the force Act 2005, which provides protection and maintenance and thereby grant the right of alimony.

  • Judicial Attitude towards Live-in-relationship:

Indian judiciary has taken a predominant role to fill the gap that was created in absence of any specific legislation referring to live-in relationships. The aim of judiciary in India is to confirm justice to the partners of live-in relationships who, were earlier not protected by any legislation when subjected to any abuse arising out of such relationships. Judiciary doesn’t expressly promote such concept nor prohibits such relationships. It is, however, ensures that there shouldn’t be any miscarriage of justice. Therefore, while deciding various cases, the judiciary often keeps in mind both factors including both societal norms and constitutional values.

The Supreme Court has previously given legality to a 50-year live-in relationship. But within the same case the Supreme Court observed that, “The presumption was rebuttable, but a very heavy burden lies on the one that seeks to deprive the link of legal origin to verify that no marriage came about. Law leans in favour of legitimacy and appears down upon a bastard.”

The Allahabad judicature also recognized the practice of live-in relationship in Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketa, wherein the Bench stated that, “In our opinion, a person and a lady, even without getting married, can live as couple if they want to. This could be thought to be immoral by society, but it’s not illegal in law. There’s a difference between law and morality.”

In landmark case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal[1], the Supreme Court held that a living relationship comes within the purview of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Court further stated that live-in relationships are permissible by law and also the act of two majors cohabitation can’t be considered illegal or unlawful.

A relationship like marriage under the 2005 Act must meet some basic criteria. It provides that the couple must be of majors & of majority to marry or should be qualified to enter into a legal marriage. It had been also stated that the couple must have cohabited voluntarily and held themselves resolute the globe as being like spouses for a major period of your time. All kinds of live-in relationships cannot be covered under the Act of 2005. Merely spending per week together or a 1 night stand wouldn’t make it a household relationship. It also held that if a person incorporates a “keep” that he maintains financially and uses just for sexual reasons or as a slave then it’d not be considered, as a wedding.

Recently, in a very landmark case, Supreme Court treated the problem of live-in relationships very well and also laid down the conditions for live-in relationship which will tend the status of marriage. A Bench of the Supreme Court in Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma[2] held that “when the girl is attentive to the actual fact that the person with whom she is during a live-in relationship and who already incorporates a legally wedded wife and two children, cannot get various reliefs available to a legally wedded wife and also to people who enter into a relationship within the nature of marriage” as per provisions of force Act, 2005. The Supreme Court here felt that denial of any protection would amount to a good injustice to those that are victims of illegal relationships. Therefore, the Supreme Court emphasized that there’s an excellent have to extend Section 2(f) which defines “domestic relationships” in force Act, 2005 so on include victims who are poor, illiterate together with their children who are born out from such relationships and who don’t have any continuing source of income.

Following are the foundations stated by Supreme Court:

(1) Duration of Period of Relationship

Section 2(f) of the violence (DV) Act uses the expression ‘at any point of time’, which suggests an inexpensive period of your time to keep up and continue a relationship which can alter from case to case, depending upon the very fact situation.

(2) Household which is shared

The expression has been stated under Section 2(s) of the DV Act and, hence, need no further clarification.

(3) Resources and Financial Arrangements Pooled

Financially supporting one another, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or within the name of the lady, long-term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so on have a powerful bonding relationship, are a guiding factor.

(4) Domestic Arrangements

Giving the responsibility, especially on the lady to run the house, do the household chores like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or up keeping the house, etc. is a sign of a relationship within the nature of marriage.

(5) Sexual Relations

Relationship like marriage refers to relationship, not only for pleasure, except for emotional and intimate reasons, for procreation of youngsters, so on give emotional support and companionship.

(6) Children

Parenting children could be a strong indicator of a relationship within the nature of marriage. Parties, therefore, will have a long-standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for upbringing and supporting them is additionally a powerful indication.

  • Difference between Marriage and Live-in-relation:

Marriage, also called as matrimony or wedlock, could be a socially/ritually recognized union or contract between spouses that establishes certain rights and legal obligations towards one another. Considering the varied culture in India, different laws are framed which lay down the procedures and guidelines for correct execution of marriages in various religions. Marriage laws are framed to produce remedies for disputes arising out of wedlock in numerous religions. Individual Acts were framed for individual religion thanks to the various customs and traditions followed by each of them. Just in case of inter-cast marriages, the Special Marriage Act shall be applicable.

Apart from maintenance under personal laws, Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 also provides for maintenance inter alia a wife is unable to keep up herself. Women can look for additional maintenance other than the upkeep received by her under the other law as per Section 20(1) (d) of the Protection of ladies from force Act (DV Act), 2005.

Live-in relationship in simple terms will be explained as a relationship within the nature of marriage where both partners enjoy individual freedom and board a shared household without being married to every other. It involves continuous cohabitation between the parties with none responsibilities or obligations towards each other. there’s no law tying them together and consequently either of the partners can walk out of the connection, as and when, they’ll to try to so.

There is no legal definition of sleep in relationship and so the position of such kind of relationships is additionally unsubstantiated. The Indian law doesn’t provide any rights or obligations on the parties in live relationship.

  • Conclusion:

Thus, the status of live-in relationships in India has been evolved and determined by the Supreme Court in its various judgments. However, there’s no separate legislation which lays down the provisions of sleep in relationships and provides legality to the present concept. Though the concept of live-in relationship is taken into account immoral by the society, but is certainly not illegal within the eyes of the law. The Supreme Court states that habitation may be a right to life and so it cannot be held illegal. The court has also tried to enhance the conditions of the ladies and youngsters borne out of board relationships by defining their status underthe violence Act, 2005 if the link is proved to be “relationship within the nature of marriage”. in an exceedingly recent case of May 5th, 2015, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and A M Sapre, dismissed a petition by the petitioner ‘Z’ who worked within the Bollywood and contended that the respondent couldn’t claim the status of a wife to be legally entitled to induce maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The Court held that cohabitation of a pair would produce to the presumption of a sound marriage and if a sleep in relationship breaks down, the person is absolute to pay maintenance to the ladies.


[1] (2010) 5 SCC 600

[2] Crl. App. No. 2009 of 2013; Decided on 26-11-2013 (SC): 2013 (14) SCALE 448 [K.S. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose, JJ.]

Author: Avidha Tiwari, New Law College, Pune

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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