Live in Relationships in India


Marriage is a civil and social institution, the importance of which is becoming highly uncertain in many young and urban minds. Couples now tend to test their partnership and intimacy before knotting. While in some cases the financial pressure of marriage is too hard to bear; in others, partners are also not confident of each other, and so prefer a living partnership. The Supreme Court in Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma defined live-in relationships in five distinct ways, however first the distinction between a marriage and live-in relationship is established in the following manner:

Distinction between the relationship in the nature of marriage and marital relationship has to be noted first. Relationship of marriage continues, notwithstanding the fact that there are differences of opinions, marital unrest etc., even if they are not sharing a shared household, being based on law. But live-in-relationship is purely an arrangement between the parties unlike, a legal marriage. Once a party to a live-in- relationship determines that he/she does not wish to live in such a relationship, that relationship comes to an end. Further, in a relationship in the nature of marriage, the party asserting the existence of the relationship, at any stage or at any point of time, must positively prove the existence of the identifying characteristics of that relationship, since the legislature has used the expression “in the nature of”.”

Live-in-relationships are not new to Western countries. Some also sought to describe living-in-relationship by observing that it is a living arrangement under which partners who are unmarried work together to have a long-term relationship close to that of marriage. The key theory, according to others, of cohabiting or living-in-relationship is that the couple involved decided to test their compatibility with each other before they made a commitment.

Live-in-relationship is a de facto partnership in which spouses share a shared bedroom without a legal marriage. It is a non-marital partnership prevailing in the West under a particular term, such as common law marriages, casual marriages or marriages of habit, deemed marriages, etc. Some brave couples claim that going to a wedding is only a waste of money, so they don’t think that their love wants any paper qualification or social drama.

The Indian judiciary is neither expressly promoting nor banning such living-in-relationships in India. In a given situation, the court is simply doing justice in accordance with the law. The key interest of the judiciary is the avoidance of miscarriage of justice. The judiciary is mindful of social mores and fundamental principles when deciding cases. Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation was the very first case to deal with live-in relationship. Here the Supreme Court held the following:

For around 50 years, a man and a woman, as the facts in this case unfold, lived as husband and wife. An adventurist challenge to the factum of marriage between the two, by the petitioner in this special leave petition, has been negatived by the High Court. A strong presumption arises in favour of wed-lock where the partners have lived together for a long spell as husband and wife. Although the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin. Law leans in favour of legitimacy and frowns upon bastardy.”

Thereby, legitimising the 50 year long relationship.

In D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, in the present case the Supreme Court held that merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a domestic relationship. Merely maintaining the finances and fulfilling sexual desires doesn’t fall within the relationship in nature of marriage. It has to fulfil the following criteria’s: 

  • The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses,
  • They must be of legal age to marry
  • They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried
  • They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time

Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan, the Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justice M. Katju and Justice R.B. Misra observed that, “In our opinion, a man and a woman, even without getting married, can live together if they wish to. This may be regarded as immoral by society, but it is not illegal. There is a difference between law and morality.

Ramdev Food Products (P) Ltd. v. Arvind bhai Ram bhai Patel, the Supreme Court held that two people living in a live-in relationship, without a formal marriage aren’t criminal offenders.

S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Anr, in the present case the south Indian actress was charged for indorsing pre-marital sex and live-in relationship whereby it was held that living together is a right to life. Live in relationship may be immoral in the eyes of the conservative Indian society but it is not illegal in the eyes of law. Thereby, dropping all the charges against the actress. 

Above are the some cases of live-in relationship. There are various right provided to female who are live-in relationship. Till date, there is no law which is made in this regard. As it is also evident the judiciary is not ready to make every live-in relationship case akin to the marriage. Each case is decided by the court based upon its facts. Despite the guidelines of the Supreme Court in place, most of the ladies aren’t aware of their rights and are most often left destitute.

Despite the recommendation of the Malimath Committee Report and law Commission recommendations that the lady in a live-in relationship should enjoy all the rights of a wife, with Maharashtra as the only state which has accepted the recommendation and worked in this regard.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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