Cohabitation is an arrangement in which two people live together but are not married. They are frequently involved in a long-term or permanent romantic or sexually intimate relationship. Since the late twentieth century, such arrangements have become increasingly common in Western countries, owing to shifting social attitudes, particularly regarding marriage, gender roles, and religion. Today, cohabitation is a common pattern among people in the Western world. In Europe, the Scandinavian countries have been the first to start this leading trend, although many countries have since followed. Mediterranean Europe has traditionally been very conservative, with religion playing a strong role. Until the mid-1990s, cohabitation levels remained low in this region, but have since increased.
During the past decades, in Western countries, there has been an increase in unmarried couples cohabiting. Historically, many Western countries have been influenced by Christian doctrines on sex, which opposes unmarried cohabitation. As social norms have changed, such beliefs have become less widely held by the population and some Christian denominations today view cohabitation as a precursor to marriage. Pope Francis has married a cohabiting couple who had children, while former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York John Sentamu have expressed tolerance of cohabitation. In recent decades high rates of participation of women in the workforce, and the widespread availability of highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptives  has led to women making individual choices over their reproduction with decreased reliance on male partners for financial stability. All these changes favored living arrangement alternatives to marriage.
In Central and Eastern Europe, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were major political changes, such as the fall of Communist governments. These societies entered a new era of increased social freedom, less rigid rules, and less authoritarian governments. They interacted with Western Europe and some became members of the European Union. As a result, the patterns of family life have started to change: marriage rates have declined, and marriage was postponed to a later age. Cohabitation and births to unmarried mothers increased, and in some countries the increase was very quick. Conflicting studies on the effect of cohabitation on subsequent marriage have been published. In countries where the majority of people disapprove of unmarried individuals living together, or a minority of the population cohabits before marriage, marriages resulting from cohabitation are more prone to divorce. But in a study on European countries, those where around half of the population cohabits before marriage, cohabitation is not selective of divorce-prone individuals, and no difference in couples that have cohabited before and after marriage is observed. In countries such as Italy, the increased risk of marital disruption for people who experienced premarital cohabitation can be entirely attributed to the selection of the most divorce-prone into cohabitation. In 2002 the CDC found that for married couples the likelihood percentage of the relationship ending after five years is 20%, for unmarried cohabitators the likelihood percentage is 49%. After 10 years the likelihood percentage for the relationship to end is 33% for married couples and 62% for unmarried cohabitators. One German study found that in regions with high rates of childbirth to cohabitating parents, no negative effect is observed in cohabitation. The study states “union stability of cohabiting mothers is positively related to their prevalence.
INDIA ON COHABITATION
India has witnessed a drastic change in the way the present generation perceive their relationships. The taboo that used to haunt partners in live-in relationships has also started to fade away with society opening up about the idea of pre-marital sex and live-in relationships. This improved mindset is a result of freedom, privacy, profession, education and also globalization. Moreover, for most of us – it is not an escape from responsibilities but a way to understand our partner and to check if at all we are compatibility. A live-in relationship not only gives the couple an opportunity to know the partner without having to engage into a legally binding relationship but also excludes the chaos of family drama and lengthy court procedures in case the couple decides to break up. It involves continuous cohabitation between the partners without any responsibilities or obligations towards one another. There is no law tying them together, and consequently, either of the partners can walk out of the relationship, as and when they want.
The Supreme Court in Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma defined live-in relationships in five distinct ways- A domestic cohabitation between an adult unmarried male and an adult unmarried female. This is the simplest kind of relationship. A domestic cohabitation between a married man and an adult unmarried woman (entered mutually). A domestic cohabitation between an adult unmarried man and a married woman (entered mutually).
These two are the most complex grey areas of acknowledging live-in relationship. Furthermore, the second type of relationship mentioned is adultery which is punishable under Indian Penal Code. A domestic cohabitation between an unmarried adult female and a married male entered unknowingly is punishable under Indian Penal Code as well. A domestic cohabitation between two homosexual partners, which cannot lead to a marital relationship in India as no marital laws against homosexuality are defined yet.
LEGAL STATUS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
Live-in relationships are not a new concept for the western world but is still relatively new for our society. The man idea behind Live- in relationship is that the couples who are interested in each other test their compatibility before entering into serious commitment. It is de facto union in which couple shares common bed-room without solemnizing marriage. In India there is no statute or legislation that directly deals with live-in-relationships. Thus, legal aspect of live-in relations is elaborated through Judgments and guidelines given by various courts that deal with such relationships. live-in relationships can be classified into two categories: Domestic cohabitation between two unmarried individuals, And Domestic cohabitation between a married and unmarried individual or two married individuals. The Supreme Court only recognizes the former as concluded in the case of Indira Sarma V/s V.K.V Sarma (AIR 2013 15 SCC 755). The court also stated that though not socially acceptable in this country, a live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin and it is an extremely personal decision to marry or not to marry, or to have a heterosexual relationship.
The constitution of India grants certain fundamental rights to its citizens. Article 19 of the constitution grants a fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression and to reside and settle in any part of the India and Article 21 of the constitution confers the Right to life to the citizen of the country. live-in relationships find its legal root embedded in these. Hence, the right and freedom of choice to either marry or have a live-in relationship with an individual of one’s own will emerges from this inalienable fundamental right. Recently, the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Sanjay and Anr. v. State of Haryana & Ors. (2021) granted protection to a young couple stating the virtues of the principles enshrined in Article 21. Apart from the Indian Constitution live-in relationship fall under the ambit of other Legislations as well. One such law is the Prevention of women from Domestic violence Act’ 2005. This was the very first time that any legislation acknowledged Live-in relationships by giving the women who are not legally married but living with a male individual in a relationship. Section 2(F) of the Domestic violence Act,2005 defines domestic relationship as ‘relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family’. Although the word live-in relationship is not expressly stated in the definition, the court presumes such relationships to be covered under the ambit of ‘relationships in the nature of marriage’. This was done to provide some protection to the women against any form of abuse in such form of bigamous relationships. It is important to note that not all forms of Live-in relationships are covered under this Act, it is only those which qualify to be the relationship in the nature of marriage are governed by that provision. Supreme Court even laid guidelines with reference to interpretation of the term ‘relationship’ under section 2(F) under this Act. The court noted that:
- The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses,
- They must be of legal age of marry,
- They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage and
- They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time
Apart from this, the scope of Section 125 CrPC also extends to the partners in live-in relationships. In 2003 the Malimath Committee submitted its recommendations regarding offences against women. One such recommendation was to alter the meaning of wife under Section 125 CrPC. Owing to this, alterations were made to provide legitimate privileges to a female who has been in a live-in relationship for a considerable period of time. The rationale behind entitling a woman in a live-in relationship to such a right is to ensure that a man does not take advantage of legal loopholes by enjoying the benefits of a de facto marriage without fulfilling the responsibilities of that marriage. In, Dhannulal v/s Ganeshram (AIR 2015) 12 SCC 301, the high court affirmed the women’s right to inherit property after the death of her partner. Along with this, the judiciary has also recognized the legal status of a child born of a live-in relationship as a legitimate rightfully entitled to a share of property of the father as found In Bharatha Matha v/s Vijeya Renganathan (AIR 2010) 11 SCC 483, where the court held that if the relationship lasted long enough children born to live-in relationships could not be deemed illegitimate. However, it is also important to note that although live-in couples have the right to conceive a child, they are not allowed to adopt children according to the guidelines governing the Adoption of children.
Indian judiciary is neither expressly encouraging nor prohibiting such kind of live-in-relationships in India. The judiciary is only rendering justice in accordance with law in a particular case. The main concern of the judiciary is to prevent the miscarriage of justice. The judiciary in deciding the cases keeps in mind the social mores and constitutional values. Since from the time of Privy Council, a presumption for couples living together without getting legally married had begun. This fact can be seen in Andrahennedige Dinohamy v. Wijetunge Liyanapatabendige Blahamy here the Privy Council took a stand that, “where a man and a lady are proved to have lived respectively as spouse, the law will presume, unless the opposite be obviously demonstrated that they were living respectively in result of a legitimate marriage, and not in a condition of concubinage”
This same view was also taken in Mohabbat Ali Khan v. Md. Ibrahim Khan wherein the court held the marriage to be legitimate as both the partners have lived together as spouse. Later the Supreme Court in its judgment in Badri Prasad v. Director of Consolidation gave legal validity to a 50-year live-in relationship. But in the same case the Supreme Court observed that, “The presumption was rebuttable, but a heavy burden lies on the person who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage took place. Law leans in favor of legitimacy and frowns upon a bastard.”
Even though it may tempt to presume the relationship in the nature of marriage, certain peculiar circumstances do occur which may force the Supreme Court to rebut such a presumption.
The Allahabad High Court again recognized the concept of live-in relationship in Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan, wherein the 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.”
In Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant, the Court held that, the live-in relationship if continued for long time, cannot be termed as a “walk-in and walk-out” relationship and that there is a presumption of marriage between the parties. By this approach of the Court, it can be clearly inferred that the Court is in favor of treating long-term living relationships as marriage rather than giving making it a new concept like live-in relationship.
In landmark case of Khushboo v. Kanniammal, the Supreme Court held that a living relationship comes within the ambit of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Court further held that live-in relationships are permissible and the act of two major living together cannot be considered illegal or unlawful.
Further, Supreme Court requested Parliament to enact a new legislation based on certain guidelines given by it so that the victims can be given protection from any societal wrong caused from such relationships.
Following are the guidelines given by Supreme Court:
- Duration of Period of Relationship
Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence (DV) Act has used the expression ‘at any point of time’, which means a reasonable period of time to maintain and continue a relationship which may vary from case to case, depending upon the fact situation.
- Shared Household
The expression has been defined under Section 2(s) of the DV Act and, hence, need no further elaboration.
- Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements
Supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long-term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so as to have a long-standing relationship, may be a guiding factor.
- Domestic Arrangements
Entrusting the responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or upkeeping the house, etc. is an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.
- Sexual Relationship
Marriage like relationship refers to sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for emotional and intimate relationship, for procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring, etc.
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.
- Socialisation in Public
Holding out to the public and socializing with friends, relations and others, as if they are husband and wife is a strong circumstance to hold the relationship is in the nature of marriage.
- Intention and Conduct of the Parties
Common intention of parties as to what their relationship is to be and to involve, and as to their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.” Lately, a landmark judgment on 8-4-2015 by the seat comprising of Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice Amitava Roy, the Supreme Court decided out that couples living in live-in relationship will be presumed legally married. The Bench also added that the woman in the relationship would be eligible to inherit the property after the death of her partner.
SOCIO-LEGAL STATUS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As mentioned previously, many people practicing live-in relationship due to low quality marriages and psychological distress caused by it. An article by USA TODAY states that from 1960s to 2000, about 10 million people (i.e., 8% of the American couple households) are living together and are unmarried. Most unmarried couples who live together are in the age groups of 25 to 34 years old.
The reasons for the increase are the higher cost in housing and tight budgets, as well as the partners want to know each other better by spending time together. According to the 2009 American Community Survey which was conducted by the Census Bureau the age groups of 30-44 years old who were living together has doubled since 1999 from 4% to 8%. Research by Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn states that 73 % women at the ages of 19 to 44 years who are in live-in relationship are without a high school education which is a contrast to 52% women who have attended college or 47% of women who have got a college degree.
As previously mentioned before in the 1970s the unmarried living together is uncommon. The reason is that before the mid-20th Century there were laws were against the practice of live-in relationship as well as adultery. As stated by the PBS, is that live-in relationship was impossible in the 1960s however due to the changing of the divorce laws in the 1960s and 1970s making divorces easier to obtain and the rise of divorce rates, people started to live together without marrying each other.
What was once disreputable has now become normal. However, in time these laws were struck down as it was considered as unconstitutional. For example, the state of North Carolina has declared the law that prohibits unmarried couples to live together is now considered as unconstitutional.
In Canada, the practice of live-in relationship is recognized as Common-Law relationship. In simple words, couples who are living together in a relationship which is equivalent to a marriage over a duration of time required by the law, then it is known as common-law relationship. This can be practiced either by straight people or people who are in same-sex relationship.
In the Canadian region of Quebec, in 2006 about 40% of women aged 25 to 30 years old are living in a live-in relationship. Furthermore, young women who are in live-in relationship have the capability to control their fertility than young women who are married. People who are in live-in relationship expressed their concern regarding marriage and divorce like legal requirements (age or previous marriage).
People who don’t want to suffer financial and emotional cost of divorce or people who are tired of traditional norms. Additionally, unlike marriage which could be dissolved through divorce, a couple living in a live-in relationship can end their relationship if they want to under the duration given by the law. For instance, British Columbia’s Family Relations Act it states that a couple who have lived in a marriage like relationship for at least two years and if the application made under the Act is made within a year after they stopped living together. The marriage like relationship can be between same or opposite gender.
Quebec which has the highest number people living in live-in relationship in the world only happened recently. This is because of its strong Roman Catholic roots where Church often interferes with the private and sexual life of people, this all changed thanks to the Quiet Revolution where young people rebelled against the doctrine.
In the case of Becker v Pettkus which was distributed by the Supreme Court (summed up in Important Family Law Cases) trailed by Peter v Beblow in 1993, together moving a force of rule law that has not decreased right up ’til today, step by step reaching out to companions, subject to legitimate exacting edges, backing and property rights including the extremely significant annuities.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
During the Victorian England in the 19th century, live-in relationship is strictly prohibited due to strict social sanctions and personal and high moral standards. The working class and the poor people living in the urban areas are mostly subjected to these social sanctions whereas the upper and the middle class have the ability to flee their homes and can start over their lives elsewhere.
Fast forward to 2010s, the live-in relationship couples are the fastest growing family types as the couples who are in live-in relationship are has increased to 17.9% equating to 3.4 million people which makes them the second largest family type in the country compared to lone parent families which constitutes about 2.9 million people (i.e., about 15%) making them the third largest family group. The reasons for the increase in live-in relationship is because of the higher divorce rates as well as higher rents and house prices. Live-in relationship is also legal in the UK.
In England and Wales, an unmarried father can get parental responsibility for his child if:
- Register the birth of the child jointly with the mother (from 1 December 2003).
- He gets a parental responsibility agreement alongside the mother.
- He gets a parental responsibility order from a court.
In Scotland, a father who is unmarried has the parental responsibility if his name is on the child’s birth certificate (from 4 May 2006). In Norther Ireland, a father who is unmarried has parental responsibility if he is named or becomes named on the child’s certificate. (From 15 April 2002)
Unmarried couple who are living together has quadrupled to 2 million in the last 2 decades. About third of marriages end up in divorce which alarmingly increases the divorce rates in France. Estimation says that 40% to 50% of the couples who are married have already lived together pre-marriage for two years. Many couples lost their interest in marrying and just live together simply. French legal system has distinguished between partners who has lived together into officially and unofficially.
The couples who are living officially will have the same privileges in the law as married couples which also includes social security. The couples need to acquire a certificate from the town hall which testifies that a couple is living together as husband and wife’ albeit town halls are not oblige to issue them in which case a couple can sign a sworn declaration that they live together. The only and major downside of this that live-in relationship partners are not recognized under the French inheritance laws which means they cannot get any state pension when their partner dies.
Unmarried couples (including same sex partners) can sign a pacte civile de solidarit (PAC in short) which will protect the rights of the individuals of each party and the partners are entitled to share property rights and can enjoy the benefits of income tax.
In Russia, particularly in the 20th century the relationship between traditional and modern approach towards live-in relationship was dynamic and varied in not only in law but also in practiced. In 1918 children were considered as equal regardless of whether they are born within or outside of marriage. In 1926, unmarried couples who went through formal civil marriage procedure can be considered as equal before the law. From 1926-39 live-in relationship was still tolerable in the Soviet Union.
However, from 1940s to 1960s the marriage legislature became conservative and more privileges were given to marriages. Furthermore, the marital fertility also declined following the end of World War II due to the significant loss of male population. However, the in 1969 unmarried fathers and mother are allowed to register their children together. And in 1960s to 1980s divorce became easy to obtain.
In the 1980s when religious renaissance was rising, flexibility of norm in union formation begin to show. And sexual freedom started to emerge after the changing socio-sexual norms in 1980s to 1990s. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the beginning of the socio-economic crisis due to its transition to capitalism and everyone with more resources are less inclined to share with anyone has led to the increase in childbirths outside of marriage.
In the end of the 1980s, the percentage of non-marital birth was slightly above 10% as it relatively stable. However, in the 1980s and even after the downfall of the Soviet Union, non-marital births begin to rise though later it became stable again at above 27%. By the 1990s and 2000s sexual and family diversification became more complicated due to the new socio-economic changes.
Russian women would use all means available to protect themselves against social, family or economic crisis. They act if the situation changes for the worst and this could lead to further breakdown of weak union ties whether it would be in marriage or in live-in relationship.
Yu Jia and Yu Xie states that after the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the Chinese government endeavor to acquire quick industrialization and modernization the mainland China. Post Mao Zedong years likewise acquired part of changes the monetary, social and political circles in China. In the Chinese society, the adolescent used to remain with the families anyway because of industrialization, movement, advanced education numerous youngsters start to exit from the parental homes.
With no supervision from the guardians, the adolescent start to pick a way of life of their own remembering live-for relationship. Further instruction of ladies likewise improved during that time, and they were turning out to be monetarily free additionally prompted the ascent of live-in relationship, also ascent of created urban areas, high everyday costs, examines. One examination shows that the living together rate before first marriage was over 20% for those brought into the world after 1977.
When the opened door policy came in China which led to the country’s opening the market to the rest of the world after years of isolation. Because of this Western Culture including live-in relationship came and divorce began to influence the society. The socio-economic change has led to the increase in young people’s autonomy in their life decision and also the loss of parental control over their children.
Live-in relationship in India is legal although there is no legal definition in the Indian laws and there is a lack of specific law which gives rights to the partners of the live-in relationship. In context to the case of S. Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr. The Supreme Court gave the judgement that Live-in relationship may be immoral in the society due to religious and conservative nature however it is not illegal. In India marriage is given as an importance over live-in relationship.
The concept is new in India because young people are afraid of the social sanction imposed by the society but as times are changing, the practice is becoming more normal in the urban areas. Live-in relationship is also a means freedom from the responsibility and commitment which can be essential in marriage.
As for the rights of women in live-in relationship the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which considers women who are not married formally but are living with a male partner which is equivalent to marriage. Section 2(f) of the act defines the domestic relationship between two partners who lived together in the shared house or are related by marriage or a relationship which is in nature to a marriage. Thus, the definition also includes partners of live-in relationship.
The case of Varsha Kapoor vs Union of India, the Delhi High Court held that female partner living in a relationship akin to marriage has a right to file a complaint against her husband/male partner as well as his relatives.
The Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Maldives, The UAE etc. follow the term of Zina. In this it means that practices like adultery, fornication, live-in relationship, same-sex relationship is prohibited under the Islamic scripture. Although consent plays an important role in the marriage, live-in relationship is out of the question as having a relationship before a marriage and a meeting with their families considered as a taboo.
The reason is that the Islamic legal system prohibits the practice of pre-marital intercourse this couples do not live together unless they are married. Islamic laws are very strict regarding relationship and breaking such rules can lead to harsher punishments for example in 2005, Indonesia proposed a law that could punish a couple for living together. The punishment is two years imprisonment and 30 million Rupiah. It would also give power to the police to raid the houses of the people who are living together.
In the 1980s, the marriage rates in Australia were declining and live-in relationship were rising. In 1975, 16% of marriages were preceded by live-in relationship. In 2008 it was 78%. When the Family Law Act 1975 came into force in 1976 the already rising divorce rates have soared. By the 1980s although divorce rates decreased, it remained above the level. It was during that time when socio-economic changes were occurring giving lots of opportunities.
For example, feminism gave women new aspirations to women beyond marriages and motherhood. Education and employment of women were given more importance over marriage which is why postponement of marriage is more prioritize. The rise of live-in relationship in Australia has led to the changes in the marital status of the parents like the increase of single parents.
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, in the first half of the 20th century about 4-6% of childbirths were outside of marriage and in the late 1960s it rose to 8% and since the 1970s, birth rates have been increased.
Live-in relationship, that is, living together as couple without being married to each other in a legally accepted way, is considered a taboo in India. But recently, such relationships are being increasingly common due to a variety of reasons. In absence of any specific legislation, rules, or customs on the subject, the Supreme Court has issued certain guidelines in its judgment for regulating such relationships. This article tries to figure out the current legal positions governing the live-in relationships in India after making a systemic assessment of these judgments. Live-in relationship between two consenting adults is not considered illegal and if the couple present themselves to the society as husband and wife and live together for a significant period of time, the relationship is considered to be a relationship “in the nature of marriage” under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Consequently, the female partner is entitled to claim alimony under its provisions. Children born out of such relationships are considered legitimate and entitled to get share in the self-acquired property of their parents, though they are not entitled for a coparcenary share in the Hindu undivided family property. Live-in relationships may enable the couple to know each other better, but such no-strings-attached relationship has its disadvantages as well. The couple faces multiple social and logistics problems in day-to-day living. From mental health point of view, it is considered better to be engaged in a good-quality relationship than living alone and having no relation at all.
In the modern fast-changing world, technological and industrial advancements are occurring at a very rapid pace for last few decades, which has revolutionized all aspects of our life. Globalization during last few decades has hastened the changes, affecting almost all aspects of our social life, like family structure, marriage, conjugal relationship, and so on. Marriage is a legally and socially accepted form of relationship between couples. Social structure and bonding being stronger in our country, the institution of marriage holds even greater importance here. Living together without marriage is considered a taboo and is very rare. But recently, things are changing fast and couples have started living together in a single household even without being married. Such relationship may be brief or may continue for a considerable period of time. If the cohabitation continues for a prolonged period, it is termed live-in relationship. Live-in relationship may be defined as “Continuous cohabitation for a significant period of time, between partners who are not married to each other in a legally acceptable way and are sharing a common household.”
There is no specific legislation, social rules, or customs in India regulating the matter of live-in relationship. Therefore, the Supreme Court has taken liberty to elaborate on the concept through its judgment at different times and has issued guidelines for the purpose of dealing with such relationships This article tries to make a review of the decisions of the apex court delivered at different times and figure out the current legal positions regarding the live-in relationships. A brief review of psychosocial aspects of such relationship is also done.
The idea of a live-in relationship was the one that was neglected by the Indian Society for a very long time. Living together before marriage was considered an offense or crime to the Indian culture formerly. Most significantly, the Hindu Law prefers ‘One man, one wife’ as the most sacred form of matrimony. But as the society began to evolve themselves mentally, the proceeding generations are ready to accept some refusing practices. For example, if we consider the case of decriminalizing homosexual cohabitation. Recent judgments involving the decriminalizing section 377 and 497 of the IPC, depict how the Indian laws have also evolved along with society.
People need not abide by strict rules while in a live-in relationship. Statistics show that 80% of Indians currently support the concept of a live-in relationship and less than half percent prefer experiencing such a living setup. Dealing with or convincing your family is one of the major troubles that Indian couples had to face. The majority of the couples that are living in such a setup are hiding this fact from their family. Here we will try to analyze what a live-in relationship is, what does a live-in relationship means in India, how does Indian law define it, and also the provisions.
The concept of a live-in relationship evolves from the growing mindset of people who began to crave a relationship with bo-strings-attached. A living relationship couple is the ones who cohabit, with no expectations being the bottom line. But there exists no legal definition to describe the concept in Indian Law. It is seen as a westernized theory that has very little relevance with the Indian tradition. Therefore, the Supreme Court of India, in several instances has taken the liberty to elaborate on the concept and idea of a live-in relationship through its judgments. It basically differs from a marriage. (Marriage or wedlock or matrimony, is an acknowledgeable union of people socially/ritually). Partners in live-in relationships do not force on obligations.
There exists no proper explanation in case someone asks whether a live-in relationship is good or bad. It will simply depend on the individual and his/her personality on looking from a different perspective. People tend to believe that while living together they can understand each other better and also for various other reasons, which cannot be denied.
In a typical marriage setup, the spouses are assigned various rights and also duties to be performed by either of them. There are various personal laws like Hindu laws, Muslim laws, Christian laws, etc. that tend to govern and also protect the marital bond of a recognized couple. A live-in relationship is an alien concept to the Indian legislature. Therefore, it does not have any legal implications for the couples who are actually considering living together without marriage and just being involved in a relationship.
Since living relationships do support pre-marital sex, there are great chances of a child being conceived. A child born in such a situation, unlike the successors born out of wedlock, will not have any rights over the inheritance. Apart from this, society treats them as illegitimate children, which would be unacceptable. But the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India freed them from this ill-fate. The Court granted them the status of a legitimate child with the right to property.
Live-in relationships were seen as void-ab-initio legally. However, in a judgment in 1978, such relationships are valid for the very first time because of the Supreme Court. In case the requisites of a marriage like mental soundness, the fulfilment of the legal age of getting married, consent, etc. are all satisfied, the couple is considered to be in a legal live-in relationship. The couple is also considered as married in case they live together for a considerably long period until proven otherwise.
The apex court has provided five different types of living together in its excellent judgment of Indra Sarma Vs V.K.V. Sarma in 2013. It is also mentioned that relationships with such a setup would fall within the ambit of Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 that offers an insight into the concerned concept. In a live-in relationship, the facets of the relationship might find a conclusion, irrespective of any decision made by the couple.
In other nations, the status of live-in partnerships is significantly more relaxed and progressive. If they have lived together for 12 months or give birth or adopt a child, all live-in couples in Canada have legal sanctity. This provides the connection, as well as the child born from it, immediate legal recognition. Through a process of amendment, the law takes its time to explain such societal changes. As a result, law cannot afford to remain stagnant in a changing world. If one examines the evolution of Hindu law across time, it becomes obvious that it was never static and has altered to meet the challenges of changing societal patterns at various times.
However, in India, the social stigma works against the individualistic way of life, as a result of high rates of adultery, women’s vulnerability, and children’s future uncertainty. Our country’s social fabric appears to be changing with time, with society and the media co-constructing each other. Because of the reciprocal impact of socioeconomic and cultural development, the unusual becomes apparent and marginally acceptable. In terms of recognition of women’s numerous roles as professionals, breadwinners in families, and independent thinkers, society is evolving dramatically. In many fields, women have proven to be equal to men, and in others, they have proven to be even better suited than males. The situation of women’s changing roles is rapidly improving. The conventional function of a male has been to work and generate money to support his family. This has significantly changed. The benefit of a live-in relationship is that it allows you to live a carefree life without the difficulties of responsibility and commitment, which is a requirement of the institution of marriage. The focus is on how society is developing in terms of accepting extramarital relationships. It is, nevertheless, a genus that has given rise to a slew of sociolegal difficulties. Couples in live-in relationships have a greater opportunity to get to know each other while still having the choice to end the relationship whenever they want. However, they must overcome numerous social and legal obstacles. Women are frequently disadvantaged in such relationships.
The Supreme Court has set guidelines to regulate such partnerships as well as to protect the rights of women who are involved in them and their children, as detailed above. For the new generation, social values and standards have shifted. In some cases, a live-in relationship may be acceptable, but the importance of the institution of marriage in sustaining social order cannot be overstated. From the perspective of a psychiatrist, it is far more vital to enter into a positive, beloved, and meaningful relationship than it is to remain single or imprisoned in an unpleasant, negative, and bothersome relationship.
It is proposed that law be enacted that spells out the rights and responsibilities of live-in partners. According to the provisions of their statutes, certain countries offer greater validity to such couples. In India, things are a little different. The advancement of laws, their respect, and the unprecedented development in the number of such relationships are all happening at the same time. It is necessary to speed up the legal process in order to adopt and enforce legislation.
The current need is to enact a new law that would look into live-in relationships separately and grant rights and obligations on the part of the couples, reducing cases of misuse of existing laws and atrocities faced by female partners in such relationships. Informal partnerships are less permanent than marriage, according to sociologists, in part because living together is “under-institutionalized.” It’s possible that the same is true for live-in couples. It is important for partners to understand that a live-in relationship is not the same as a legal marriage. Perhaps only religious marriages will be considered committed in a live-in relationship. If live-in relationships are not approached with the same seriousness of purpose as marriage and are not governed by commitment rules, they are more likely to be unstable than even modern marriages.
To conclude, it is pertinent to say that:
“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsch
 Chiranjeev Singh, (2015), Indra Sarma v. VKV Sarma| Unlawked.com
 Diganth Raj Sehgal,(2021), Recent developments in live-in relationships| blog.ipleader.in
 M Y Eqbal, (2015), Dhannulal & Ors vs Ganeshram and Anr on 8 April, 2015| indiankanoon.org
 B. Chauhan, (2010), Bharatha Matha & Anr vs R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors on 17 May, 2010| indiankanoon.org
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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