This article is written by Mrigha Mahajan of 3rd Semester of The Law School, University Of Jammu, an intern under Legal Vidhiya
Change is the law of nature. It is inevitable. Trees shed their leaves and replace them with new ones. It cannot be avoided. Everything is constantly changing even the environment. Modern world is rapidly changing. People change , societies change , cultures and traditions also change or we can say that they evolve from time to time. The Indian society is also changing at a rapid speed. We have seen a great influence of the western cultures on the Indian customs and practices. The society is adopting a western lifestyle with modern ideas. People are opening their minds regarding western ideas and an independent lifestyle. Many new trends have emerged . One such trend is that of live in relationships. It is quite similar to marriage .
KEYWORDS: Live in relationships , cohabitation , taboo, pre-marital sex , marriage , liability, protection , legal
Live in relationships have given a new angle to the relationship between two individuals. This kind of framework is neither a crime nor a sin . This arrangement is considered as a taboo in most societies even today. In India , marriage is considered as a sacred institution . Live in relationships are mostly disapproved by the people. But with the changing of time , some sections have started accepting live in relationships in India. With the passing of various judgments and the awareness created on live in relationships, a portion of Indian populations have started approving the concept of live in relationships . The Indian judiciary has made constant efforts to recognize live in relationships in India. The intention is to render justice to live in partners who were earlier not protected by laws. The judiciary has served as a regulator in curbing the taboo in the society . In India , there is no specific law related to live in relationships although the courts have recognized live in relationships. Although it is recognized by the judicial system it still lacks cultural approval .
Live in relationship refers to a framework in which two people agree to live together for a long period of time in an emotional and a sexual relationship. It is also called cohabitation in some countries. It is an arrangement or a setup where a couple decides to live together without marriage for a long period or on permanent basis. In simple words , it means living together before marriage . If one party does not wish to live in a relationship , that relationship comes to an end. Hence , a live in relationship is also known as a walk-in and walk-out relationship. This kind of relationship builds harmony between the two people living together but destroys their social image or reputation. Live in relationships can be categorized mainly into three distinct categories that is (i) Live in relationship between an unmarried couple (ii) Live in relationship between two individuals in which one or both are married . (iii) Live in relationship between same sex partners . The most common is the live in relationship between unmarried couples . The two individuals perform every duty together that is to be performed by a married couple . A person who has reached the age of majority can enter into a live in relationship.
PROS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSIPS
- It is a test for marriage . Married couples face a lot of problems and questions .Couples in a live in relationship can easily test out the problems simply by living together .
- Many marriages fail due to failure of the couples to take responsibilities. These mainly include family and the financial burden upon them . Individuals living in a live in relationship can smoothly figure out whether they can take responsibility or not.
- The main benefit of a live in relationship is that it is a non-contractual relationship . There is no contractual liability on the partners and therefore they are free to fulfil their needs as per their choice.
CONS OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
- The main demerit of a live in relationship is the lack of support from family and friends . It often is the main reason of the collapse of the relationship. Moreover, it causes mental agony to both the individuals .
- One of the demerits is the social stigma that the couple goes through. From constantly being judged by the society to finding a decent place to live , the couple faces a lot of problems and has to go through mental distress as well .
- The children born out of a live in relationship goes through a lot of mental stress and problems in their childhood even though the court recognizes them as legitimate children. Due to the taboo carried with a live in relationship the children do not enjoy a happy childhood and have to face the trauma .
POSITION IN ABROAD
Many drastic changes were brought in the decade of 1990s. With an end to the Cold War , the world saw a variety of changes in almost every field be it politics , science, technology , economy, societies etc. Many new trends emerged . One such trend was of the live in relationships. This concept was rising in the urban areas and was popular among the youth . It became popular due to TV shows , movies etc. . Although live in relationships became a popular trend there were many countries that opposed it . Due to this , the youth had to face a lot of problems . Now let us take a look at the legal status of live in relationships in different countries.
- United States Of America
Many people in the USA practice live in relationships . It is the new normal . According to an article by USA TODAY , from 1960s to 2000, about 8% of the American couples were living together in a live in relationship. Most couples were from the age group of 25 years to 34 years. Live in relationships have now become a common practice in America . The practice was uncommon during the 1970s but with time laws changed and people started to live together.
2. United Kingdom
Live-in relationships were strictly prohibited in the United Kingdom during the 19th century . This was due to the strict social norms that prevailed in the society.
Since the beginning of the modern welfare state live in relationships have been a part of the law in the UK. The couple living together is also known as common law partners . The couple should be above 16 years of age . If there is a child born out of the live in relationship both the partners are responsible .
About 40% to 50% of the married couples in France have lived together atleast for two years before marriage. Live in relationships are governed by the Civil Solidarity pact of ‘pacte civil de solidarte’ passed by the French National Assembly in October 1999. Every year over half a million couples in France start to live together in a live in relationship. The average age of these couples is 38.5 years.
4. Islamic Countries
Islamic laws are very strict regarding live in relationships . Live in relationships are strictly prohibited in Islamic countries like UAE , Iran , Pakistan , Maldives, Indonesia etc. There is the concept of ‘Zina’ in the Islamic laws . It strictly prohibits practices like adultery , same sex relationships , live in relationships etc. Having a relationship before marriage is even considered a taboo in many Islamic countries .
POSITION IN INDIA
Live in relationships in India are legal. This kind of arrangement is not officially recognized by the Indian government . There are certain laws which are exclusive to married couples. The Supreme Court however, ruled in 2010 that live in relationships are neither illegal nor immoral. It categorized this kind of framework as domestic relationships. This means that two consenting adults have the right to cohabit without marriage.
Marriage in India is a social institution that is widely respected and is considered sacred. Marriage is a contract between two parties. It is an institution of society which can have different implications in different cultures. Marriage is given the hallmark of social approval , it becomes a legal contract. There is no society in the world that does not recognizes marriage as a social institution. The concept of live in relationship is still out of bounds in India. This arrangement is still not socially accepted. There are no special legal provisions related to live in relationships in India. It is a subject of morality in India. In India , morality is of utmost importance. Keeping this in mind , the legislature does not promote pre-marital sex that comes along within a live in relationship. This is one of the main reasons that there is still no specific legislations related to live in relationships in India.
Some of the legal provisions that relate to live in relationships in India are:
- Domestic Violence Act , 2005
The Domestic Violence Act , 2005 protects women in domestic relationships against violence and abuse. This act recognizes domestic violence as a human right violation. It determines a woman’s right to live in a violence free home. The act recognizes a woman’s right to residence and her right to obtain protection orders under the law .This act also provides protection to women in live in relationships. Section 2(f) of the act is applicable not only to married women but women living in a ‘relationship in nature of marriage’.
2. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:
This act provides for the registration of marriages . It also determines the right of a woman to maintenance after separation from her husband. Section 25 of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 provides for maintenance after a divorce or nullity of marriage. Section 16 of The Hindu Marriage Act, 2005 talks about providing a legal status to an illegitimate child born out of live in relationship or marriage. It provides for inheritance rights to children born out of live in relationships. These rights are applicable to ancestral as well as self-bought properties. The personal laws govern the maintenance rights of children born out of marriage as well as live in relationships. It differs from one personal law to another. In Muslim Law, a father is not liable for maintenance of a child born out of marriage but in Hindu Law, a father is liable for maintenance of the child.
3. Code of Criminal Procedure , 1973
The child born out of a live in relationship is also entitled for maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC. The child is entitled for maintenance until they attain the age of majority irrespective of whether the child is legitimate or illegitimate. This section also includes women in live in relationships. It makes clear that her financial rights are protected. A woman who is in a live in relationship for a reasonable amount of time can be considered as ‘wife’. She can claim maintenance if she was in a live in relationship and is unable to maintain herself.
A couple in live in relationship in India cannot adopt a child. Two adults can live in a live in relationship, even if one or both of them are married to someone else provided all the parties are aware of the situation .The courts do not consider it a criminal offense . The married spouse can file for divorce.
Landmark case on live in relationships in India:
S.Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Anr , (2010) 5 SCC 600
The Supreme Court comprising a bench of three judges , ruled the judgment in favour of the appellant . It held that there was no prima facie case of defamation in the case. There was no prima facie evidence that the statements made by the appellant were defamatory . The court also said that cases against the appellant were with mala fide intention The court granted relief sought by the appellant that is it quashed all the complaints against her. Therefore, it is concluded that it is not the task of the criminal law to punish individuals merely for expressing unpopular opinions.
This case is important because it deals with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression and it also drew a picture of the criteria to check the obscenity of any statement. It held that a live in relationship comes under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution within the scope of Right to life .
Landmark judgments related to live in relationships in India:
- Lata Singh v. State of UP and another, AIR 2006 SC 2522
The Court cited the 2006 decision of Lata Singh v. State of U.P. & Others, in which the Court ruled that a major girl is free to live or marry as she pleases. The Court further declared that the accused had not broken any laws and that the current case was an abuse of the legal system and administrative procedures.
2. Alok Kumar v. State, Crl. M.C. No. 299/2009 MANU DE/2069/2010. (Del. H.C. Aug. 9, 2010)
In the 2010 case of Alok Kumar v. State, the court determined that a live-in relationship is unconditional and does not give rise to any kind of legal connections between the parties. The court decided that individuals who do not want to get into such relationships may enter into the bond of marriage, where the parties are not allowed to easily dissolve the connection and have legal obligations. The court referred to the live-in relationship as a walk-in and walk-out. Since live-in partnerships are typically between a married man and an unmarried woman or between a married woman and an unmarried man, people in such situations cannot accuse one another of infidelity or immorality.
3. D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, (2010)10 SCC 469
In the 2010 case of D.Velusamy v. D.Patchaiammal, the Supreme Court established the circumstances in which a woman in a live-in relationship may make a claim for maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, while also defining the distinction between live-in relationships and relationships like marriage.
Although live in relationships are recognized by the judicial system , it is still stigmatized. Because of the passing of various judgments by the courts people have started to accept live in relationships but we have a long way to go. Live in relationships require social acceptance and continues to be a taboo in India. Everyone deserves to live their lives according to their requirements. Moreover , there should be more safeguards regarding the protection of partners in a live in relationship. The legislature should come up with laws regarding live in relationships in India and should implement those laws properly in order to render justice.
- Indiafilings.com,https://www.indiafilings.com/learn/live-in-relationships-in-india/ (October 3, 2023)
- Lawtrend.in,https://lawtrend.in/important-judgements-on-live-in-relationship-in-india/ (October 3, 2023)
- Theswaddle.com,https://theswaddle.com/how-does-the-law-protect-people-in-live-in-relationships/ (October 3, 2023)
- tripakshalitigation.com, https://tripakshalitigation.com/legality-of-live-in-relationship-in-india/ (October 3, 2023)