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In India, the notion of live-in relationship is prominently increasing. We can say that it is a cohabitation which is an agreement where two adults are not married but they live together. Often, it appears like a stress free relationship to the young generation without any legal obligations. Contrary wise , it has more responsibilities, legal liabilities and complications. Recently, if we see  some attempts are being made to bring live-in relationship in the ambit of sone laws. In India, it is no longer an offence and also many guidelines related to maintenance, legal status of a child (if any), property have been included in  decisions of the the case by the apex court. But in India, it is still a debatable issue.

The main focus of this research article is to know a bit more about the concept of live-in relationship in India with help of secondary sources. So, an attempt has been made to study about this topic and the related laws to it.


This concept of live-in culture is already accepted and legalised in many countries around the world and the same has done by India in the year 2006. As stated by the apex court, if a man and women is in love and wants to live together, it will be part of their Right to life. Therefore it is no longer an offence India. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) 2005 is the first legislative act which has provided legal recognition to those relationships which are considered outside the marriage. Many more attempts have been made to bring this in the ambit of some laws like domestic violence, legal status of a child, property, maintenance etc. in order to bring the dynamics of the new social order. But still on the moral grounds, live-in culture is a debatable topic and yet a taboo in India.


The customs and practices of Indian society is ever changing as it has seen a lot of dynamics and influence of western culture. People now have opened their minds towards the western lifestyle and living independently away from their family and culture.

One of the change has been seen in the outlook of how people see relationships. Most of the people still want that feeling of being loved and belongingness but without getting married. And as an alternative for this, they go for the live-in option. It has been seen aa a relationship which exactly resembles like marriage but without obligations and responsibilities.

Live-in relationship is all about an agreement between two parties in which if once a party in that relationship does not wish to live together, that relationship comes to an end. It can be called as a walk-in and walk-out relationships. Such relationships are neither a crime nor a sin though to a certain extent it is still unacceptable in the Indian society. The notion of live-in has set up a new dimension in a country like India where earlier only marriages have been considered as a social foundation to legalise the relationship between adults.


Mostly marriages in India is governed under personal laws of every individual. This concept of live-in is not expressly recognised by any legislature but however the courts in India by time to time has distinguished the morality from law and upheld the validity of these relations by keeping the constitutional principles in mind.

Certain fundamental rights and freedom has been given by the constitution of India to its citizens. Under article 19 of the constitution, people of Indian have been granted with fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and to reside and settle in any part of the country. Apart from this article 21 gives right to life to every person. An individual can reside with a partner of their choice and establish physical relationships and that will be governed under the above fundamental rights and freedom. However, this should be kept in mind that such rights and freedoms are not absolute in nature.

S. Khushboo vs kanniammal [1] :- this is a landmark case in which Supreme Court held that a live-in relationship will come in the ambit of right to life under article 21. Further it was held that live in relationships are permissible and it cannot be considered as illegal or unlawful.

Lata singh vs state of UP & others[2] :- In this case, the Supreme Court observed that live-in relationship between two adults who has given their consent does not amount to any offence even though it may be perceived as immoral.

Indra Sarma vs V.K.V Sarma[3] :-  the Supreme Court in this case observed that live-in or marriage like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially it is unacceptable in this country. The decision to marry or not to marry will be their personal choice.


 Domestic violence act

Domestic violence act, 2005 was legislated with the aim to protect the women from abusive relationships, partners and family. According to the sec. 2 (f), this act does not apply only to married couples but also to those relationships similar to nature like marriage. Under this act, a women is entitled to claim remedy in case of physical, mental, economic or verbal abuse. In addition to this, remedies are conferred in the form of property and restrictions from use of facilities to which the victim is entitled. The victim has been granted several rights and protections under this act.

Therefore, when it will be established before the court that there was a relationship in nature of marriage, the women in a live-in can claim all the remedies available to her.

In the case of Velusamy vs D. Patchaiammal[4] , it was determined that certain ore requisite for a live-in relationship will be considered as valid. It was provided that couples must hold themselves out to society as being to spouses . Also the must attain the legal age for marriage or qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried. The court also clarified that if a man keeps women as his servant and maintains her financially and uses her mainly for sexual purposes, such relationships would not be considered as marriage. Therefore, to get such benefits conditions mentioned must be satisfied and proved by evidence.

  • The court gave certain guidelines to which we can determine the relationships which will fall within the meaning of ‘the nature of marriage’ . They are as follows:-
  • Duration of period of relationship sec 2(f) of the domestic violence act has used the expression “at any point of time” , which means a reasonable period of time to maintain and continue the relationship which may vary from case to case, depending upon the fact situation.
  • Shared household:- this expression has been defined under section 2(s) of the domestic violence act and hence need no further elaboration.
  • Pooling resources and financial agreements:-  supporting each other or any one of them financially by sharing bank accounts, long term investment in business, shares in separate and joint names may be a guided factor.
  • Domestic arrangements entrusting the responsibility especially on the women to run the house, to do the household activities like cleaning cooking, maintaining and up keeping the house etc comes in the nature of marriage.
  • Children:- having children is a strong indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage. Parties therefore, intend to have a long standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting them is also a strong indication.
  • Intention and conduct of the parties:- common intention of the parties, their respective roles and responsibilities determines the nature of marriage.[5]


Live-in relationship provides freedom to the individual but on the same side laws are essential to cut back its disadvantages as it carries in securities with it. Though live in relationship has got recognition by the judiciary but still it lacks social acceptance and continues to be a taboo. Further, proper legislative acts are required not only to protect the rights of the individuals but also to determine various other rights related to this such as property rights, custodial rights of children etc. also, there is a need for a separate laws which should emphasise on social, legal and secular aspects and solve these complexities which still exist in the live-in relationships.



[1] (2010) 5SCC 600

[2] AIR 2006 SC 2522

[3] (2013) 15 SC 755

[4] 2010 (10) SCC 469

[5] ( visited on 19/07/21)


Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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