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  • Writer's pictureShriyanka Dash

Are live-in relationships legal in India? Know all about it!

The concept of live-in relationship has steadily developed with the broad mindset of people who do not mind sharing a roof and preferably their body with someone without officially naming their relationship. Though evolving, the idea is still considered intolerable in India, a nation where marriage is considered a sacred union since the Vedic period. The bottom line of every live-in relationship is ‘no strings attached’. From child marriage to arrange marriage, arranged marriage to love marriage, love marriage to inter-caste marriage, and inter-caste marriage to live-in relationships, marriage and relationships have grown out to be more liberal than ever. But nonetheless, live-ins are still in the age of scrutiny, due to which many couples decide to keep it their secret. Indian families wince at the idea of live- ins because according to them the objective implies sex for pleasure, instead of procreation which a marriage implies. They acknowledge commitment in marriage but only abstinence of responsibilities in live-ins. However, the great possibility and potential of live-in relationships turning into one of the greatest alternatives of marriage cannot be ignored. Thus, in this blog post, we shall learn about the legality of live-in relationship, provisions on domestic violence in same, legitimacy of children born out of such relationships etc.

What is the difference between Marriage and Live-in relationship?

Marriage is governed by the law in India. It is a socially as well as ritually recognized union or a contract between two individual, which gives rise to a set of rights and obligations towards each other to govern and protect the marital bond of a recognized couple. Whereas, Live in relationships involves continuous cohabitation between the parties without any responsibilities or obligations towards one another. It is when two major (above 18 years of age) individuals decide to live together in a relationship similar to the nature of wedlock. It is an alien concept to the Indian legislature does not have any legal implications for the couples who live together without marriage involved in the relationship. There is no law binding them together, eventually, either of the party can freely move out of such a relationship, or even decide to marry, or live that way for an entire lifetime.

Are live-in relationships legal?

Off course they are legal. The honourable Supreme Court of India has held that living together is not illegal in the eyes of law even if it is considered immoral in the eyes of the conservative Indian society. The court stated that living together is a right to life and therefore not ‘illegal’.

What does Indian judiciary say about it?

In 1978, it was the first time in the case of Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation, the honourable Supreme Court recognized live-in relationship as valid as a marriage. The court here gave legal validity to the 50-year-old live-in relationship, where the couple cohabited just as a wife and husband. The difference was only that they never socially married fulfilling all religious rituals.

When can a live-in relationship be considered to be valid?

1. Both must be of legal age to marry.

2. Both must be qualified to enter into a legal marriage (for example, one of them should not be married already, which is also a precondition to marry legally).

3. Both must have voluntarily cohabited (free will and consent must be present; a person cannot be forced into a valid legal live-in relationship).

4. Both have lived just like a married couple in society for a long period of time.

Does the law protect women in live-in relationships? How exactly?

As the broader aspects of live-in relationships started getting attention in India, women were taken for granted more than ever. Most of the live-ins are still either a secret or a decision against the will of the live-in family, taking advantage of which the women were mistreated by their male counterparts and instances of violence and harassment rapidly rose. Women couldn’t really reach their families for help, neither they hoped for any legal remedy assuming them to be available only to married women.

And then, the honourable Supreme Court of India interpreted live-in relationships under ‘relationships in the nature of marriage’ under Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act,2005. Now, women in a live-in relationship also are entitled to all the rights and remedies provided under this enactment.

A woman can also claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Code of Procedure,1873 from her male partner. (Maintenance is an amount of money, payable by the husband to his wife if she is unable to maintain herself, depending on the husband’s financial status). However, this provision also entitles the husband(in this post, the male partner) to claim for maintenance depending upon the financial status of the wife(here the female partner), if he is unable to maintain himself.

What are the rights of a child born in a live-in relationship?

Partners living together for a long period of time may have children together. Are such children protected under the law? A child born out of wedlock(in a live-in in a relationship) is provided legal status. Under section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, such children are considered as legitimate as the ones born in a marriage. But for that, the couple must have lived together as a couple for a considered number of years, and should not be a walk in walk out relationship. Children born in such live-in relations are very well entitled to inheritance. They have an equal share on inherited property.

Children born in a live-in relationship are also entitled to be maintained by their father (also mother, if father not present) under Section 125 of CrPC, 1873.

What about the children if the partners separate? And then fight to keep the baby? The dispute for the custody of the children will be the same as for a married couple. But, in case of a child born out of wedlock, the mother is considered to be the first natural guardian for the purpose of the custody.

Pros and Cons of a live-in relationship

The pros of co-living relationship include

1. Unlike marriage, live-ins have fewer responsibilities, compromises, social and legal bond.

2. There are lesser legal issues in live-ins, such as divorce, separation etc. A couple can simply move on rather than being in a suffocating relationship.

3. Another excellent advantage of a live-in relationship is the aspect of financial freedom. One can easily divide expenses when it comes to a live-in relation. This concept is rather difficult when it comes to marriage.

The cons of co-living relationship include

1. Social Censure: One of the major cons of being in a live-in relationship is the fact that society scorns upon the whole concept. Live-in relationships as of yet have still not been accepted in most parts of the society, especially in India.

2. Lack of Commitment: It can be stated that one of the biggest advantages of a live-in relationship is also one of its largest disadvantages. There is a lack of commitment when it comes to the co-living relationship. This is why most of them are so short-lived. The likelihood of one getting out of a live-in relationship is as quick as one entering into one.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is an academic endeavour to increase awareness on legal procedure and the rights associated with the. The opinions expressed by the contributors are for informational purposes only and is made in their personal capacity. Nothing herein shall be deemed constitute legal advice. The reader is cautioned to seek legal advice from trained professionals for their queries.

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