LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA

“With changing social norms of legitimacy in every society,

Including ours, what was illegitimate in the past may be legitimate today.”

The custom of men and women living together without marriage has been in practice for millenniums. Since ancient times, the Nawabs, princes and wealthy men in India not only had several wives, but also several live-in women in their zenanas.[1]It was not to be considered ‘immoral’ for men to have live-in relationships with women outside their marriage.[2]Following independence, as society matured, bigamy was outlawed and women became more aware of their rights. This practice thus died out.

The last few decades have however seen the advent of a new form of “live-ins”, where men and women cohabit together without entering into marriage. As Indian woman was expected to remain a virgin till, she married, but a live-in relationship contradicted this tradition.[3] Also, it made women financially dependent on men and thus was highly unstable. Therefore, neither the statutes nor the courts supported such relationships. In the case of Malti v. State of Uttar Pradesh[4], the court held that a woman living with a man could not be equated as his wife under section 125 CrPc.

There are some incidents where courts had recognized such relations though. In A Dinohamy v. WL Blahamy[5], the court held that “Where a man and a woman are proved to have lived together as a man and wife, the law will presume, that they were living together in consequence of a valid marriage, unless the contrary can be proven.” However, these judgements only served to recognize marriages, which were doubted, on the basis that a long-term live-in relationship existed.

The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 became the first statute to give in live-in partners the same recognition as married couples. In the case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal[6], the Supreme Court gave its landmark judgement and held that there was no law that prohibits live-in relationships or pre-marital sex. It also added that a live-in relationship is permissible only in unmarried major persons of heterogeneous sex.

The concept of live in relationship has arisen as many people choose to avoid the circumstances or responsibilities/liabilities that ensue because of marriage, but would still like to enjoy the benefits of cohabitation. The liabilities and status that is guaranteed by law as a consequence of marriage are mostly avoided when people op for live in relationship. Live in relationship provides individual freedom, but due to the insecurity it carries with itself, there needs to be a law to curtail its ill effects/disadvantages.

Hence, the High Courts and the Supreme Courts in a number of decisions delivered until recently have shown positive signs of recognizing the legitimacy of the live-in relationships and have shown the inclination for legislation be enacted with the sole objective of protecting the rights of couples in live in a live-in relationship.


[1] The part reserved for the women of the household. [See http://www.thefreedictionary.com/zenanas%5D.April 2, 2020.

[2] Vimla Patil, “Do Live In Relationships Really Benefit Women”, THE TRIBUNE, Chandigarh. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030921/herworld.htm#1. April 6, 2020.

[3] Ibid.

[4] 2000 Cri LJ 4170 (All).

[5] (1928) 1 MLJ 388.

[6] 2010 AIR SCW 2770.

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.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

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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