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The Legal Landscape: Understanding Live-in Relationships in India

Updated: Jan 27

Live-in relationships are scenarios where two unmarried couples cohabit together without being in wedlock. Unlike, around the world where live-in relationships are a general norm in India it is still taboo and many people aren't favorable regarding it. Although in terms of legality there have been various notable judgments passed across by the Supreme Court of India, where live-in relationships aren't considered as a crime and they have been more favorable towards the couple party rather than going with the tide of society notion of seeing it as a crime. Currently, there is no law that prevents two consenting adult individuals from cohabitating together, The first case in which the Apex Court recognized the live-in relationship was that of Badri Prasad v. Director of the consolidation 1978, where the Supreme Court gave legal validity to a 50-year live-in relationship.

In the case of S. Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr on 28 April 2010. The bench had stressed regards to the rights granted under Article 21 of the constitution. It has highlighted in the judgment saying it isn't an offense and, living together is a right granted under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Right to Life and Right to Personal Liberty. The Allahabad High Court recognized the concept of a live-in relationship in Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan and 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.”

Until the two parties are adults and are staying with the consent** of each other it wouldn't be a matter of concern, but if a party is of a minor, then it would be difficult to say isn't an offense, as the individual can be prosecuted under The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO Act).

As two individuals would be cohabiting together as a married couple, there would be uncertain scenarios that might arise in general, such as Domestic Violence, Child Birth, Inheritance of Property, and Maintenance. Although there is no common law for Live-In Relationships, the legality regards to these scenarios are undertaken from the other acts and there is a legal remedy for the problems that arise out of Live-in Relationships.

Presumption regarding the relation: The phrase " a relationship in the nature of marriage" takes into its ambit for live-in relationships, but it is open to the Court's interpretation based on the circumstances of the case. For Instance, In D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, the Supreme Court held that a relationship like marriage under the 2005 Act must consent to some basic criteria. Simply spending a week together or a one-night stand would not make it a household relationship. It additionally held that if a man has a “keep” whom he maintains financially and uses principally for sexual reasons or potentially as a slave then it would not be considered, as a relationship in the nature of marriage.

Domestic Violence: The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 recognizes the status of a live-in relationship, Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 defines: Domestic relationship means a 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.

As part of the act, the aggrieved woman partner will be eligible to get compensation and damages for the injuries committed by the respondent.

In the case of Indra Sarma vs V.K.V.Sarma on 26 November 2013., the court held that when the woman, having been fully aware of the fact that the respondent was a married person, could not have entered into a live-in relationship in the nature of marriage. All live-in- relationships are not relationships in the nature of marriage. Appellant’s and the respondent’s relationship is, therefore, not a “relationship in the nature of marriage” because it has no inherent or essential characteristic of a marriage, but a relationship other than “in the nature of marriage” and the appellant’s status is lower than the status of a wife and that relationship would not fall within the definition of “domestic relationship” under section 2(f) of the DV Act. If we hold that the relationship between the appellant and the respondent is a relationship in the nature of marriage, we will be doing an injustice to the legally wedded wife and children who opposed that relationship. The bench has said that Parliament has to ponder over these issues, bring in proper legislation or make a proper amendment to the Act so that women and the children, born out of such kinds of relationships be protected, though those types of relationship might not be a relationship in the nature of a marriage. Maintenance: Section 125 of the CrPc deals with an order for the maintenance of wives, children, and parents. Under this section, a wife can claim maintenance from her husband if he refuses to maintain her. In a living relationship, the woman has to establish to the court that her relationship was like the nature of marriage, and that can be used as a presumption by the court to provide relief in the favour of the woman. The reason why the court would go in the favour of the women is to prevent the misuse of legal loopholes by the individuals to desert the women if a child has been born or if to avoid any monetary responsibility.

In the case of Chanmuniya vs Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha The Supreme Court held that women in live-in relationships are equally entitled to all the claims and reliefs which are available to a legally wedded wife.

Child born out of Live-in Relationship: In the case of Tulsa v. Durghatiya, the Hon’ble court held that “Where the partners lived together for a long spell as husband and wife there would be a presumption in favor of wedlock. 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 bastardy. Also, it is constructed from this judgment that if a person is living in a live-in relationship and a child is born during the relationship then the child would not be considered illegitimate. But it has precondition to be fulfilled that the parents of the child must be living together in the same house and cohabited for a considerable and substantial long period of time so that the society recognizes them as husband and wife, also the relationship of the parents and the child should not be ‘walk-in and walk-out relationship. In the case of S.P.S. Balasubramanyam vs Suruttayan, the court held that if a man and woman were living together for long years as husband and wife then a presumption arises in the law of legality of marriage existing between the two and the children born to them will not be illegitimate. In the case of Revanasiddappa & Anr vs Mallikarjun & Ors on 31 March 2011, the Supreme Court Bench said In view of the legal fiction contained in Section 16 of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the illegitimate children, for all practical purposes, including succession to the properties of their parents, have to be treated as legitimate.

To conclude, The Supreme Court has been more favorable to ensure that the rights of women are protected in the cases which arise of live-in relationship.


Badri Prasad vs Dy. Director Of Consolidation And ... on 1 August 1978: Indra Sarma vs V.K.V.Sarma on 26 November, 2013: Live in Pre-Martial Sex No Offence: D.Velusamy vs D.Patchaiammal on 21 October 2010: S.P.S. Balasubramanyam vs Suruttayan Alias Andali: Revanasiddappa & Anr vs Mallikarjun & Ors on 31 March, 2011:

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