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Live-In Relationships

Context: According to government of India, Live-In Relationships , which are in the nature of marriage, are protected under the provisions of the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA).

Live-In Relationships News

  • Supreme Court and other various High Courts in a number of judgments have held the view that ‘live-in-relationships’, which are in the nature of marriage are covered under the provisions of PWDVA.
  • Supreme Court in Badri Prasad Vs Dy. Director of Consolidation (1978) held that live-in relationships in India are legal but subject to caveats like age of marriage, consent and soundness of mind.
    • Legality of live-in relationship stems from the Articles 19(a) – right to freedom of speech and expression and Article 21– protection of right to life and personal liberty of the Constitution of India.
    • Right to Life under Article 21: An individual has the right to live with a person of their interest with or without marriage.


Live-In Relationship

  • It is an arrangement when two people involved in a romantic and sexual relationship as partners for a long term or permanently, decide to live together without marriage.
  • Also called cohabitation in some countries.


Opinion of the Courts on Live-in Relationships

  • Supreme Court in Lata Singh Vs State of UP, 2006, ruled that two persons of opposite sex living together are not doing anything illegal.
  • In 2010, the SC in S. Khushboo Vs Kanniammal & Another reiterated the 2006 verdict and noted “a live-in relationship between two consenting adults of heterogenic sex does not amount to any offense (with the obvious exception of ‘adultery’), even though it may be perceived as immoral”.
  • In 2010, the Supreme Court in Velusamy Vs D Patchaimal laid down criteria for live-in relationships to be legal:
    • 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.
  • In 2013, the Supreme Court in Indra Sarma vs VKV Sarma ruled that the woman partner in a live-in relationship is protected under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act, 2005.
    • Women are protected under the PWDV Act, 2005 as live-in relationships fall under Section 2(f) of the law which defines a domestic relationship.
    • PWDV 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”.


Important Provision of PWDV Act

  • In Navtej Singh Johar and Others Vs Union of India and Ors, 2016 the Supreme Court held that consensual sexual acts of adults in private are constitutional.
  • According to the 2016 Punjab High Court judgement in Ajay Bhardwaj Vs Jyotsana case, women are eligible for alimonies in live-in relationships.
  • Malimath Committee report has extended the definition of the term ‘wife’ to include a woman who has lived with a man like his wife for a considerable amount of time and thus is legally eligible to claim maintenance.


Children Born out of Live-in Relationships

  • In June 2022, the Supreme Court in Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan & Another Vs Kattukandi Edathil Valsan & Others ruled that children born to partners in live-in relationships can be considered legitimate.
  • Court ruled that such children are eligible to be part of family succession.


Live-in Relationships Conclusion

  • Live-in relationships are nowhere mentioned in Muslim laws and they are not mentioned even in Hindu laws, but the courts through their judgments have legalised it for Hindus, even giving property rights to children born in such relationships
  • Live-in relationships do not extend to Muslim personal law and children of Muslim live-in partners would be considered illegitimate as per existing law.
  • There is a need to bring legislation on the subject so that there is clarity and courts don’t bring conflicting rulings.


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