Definition: When two individuals are cohabiting/staying together with free consent and are involved in a sexual relationship without getting married, it is known as live-in relationship.
Legal Recognition of Live-in Partners in India
Partners in live-in relationship have not been legally recognized by any implied sections or articles. Though it is not socially acceptable in some parts of India but live-in relationships are not illegal. As per recent judgements of various courts in India, it has brought about some changes and have expressly accepted it to be legal in the country.
S.Khushboo V Kanniammal, in this case the Supreme Court held that a live-in relationship comes within the ambit of Right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The court also held that live-in-relationships are permissible and the act of two adults living together cannot be considered unlawful or illegal.
In Dhannu Lal v. Ganeshram, the Supreme Court decided the couples living in live-in relationships will be presumed legally married. It was further held that the woman in the relationship would be eligible to inherit the property after the death of her partner.
Live-in Relationship Deed
There is an option of preparing a relationship deed before the couple starts cohabiting together. This relationship deed includes all the terms and conditions to which both the parties have to comply to. This deed is a kind of an agreement between both the parties which is made with the consent and free will of both the parties. This deed is helpful in cases where the relationship doesn’t end well and dispute arises between the parties. Therefore, if a couple is willing to cohabitate together but are scared of its possible consequences, they can rely on the relationship deed. Live-in relationship deed is similar to a Pre-nup Agreement.
Prenuptial Agreements commonly known as Pre-nup Agreements, is a written contract prepared by two people before they get married. Pre-nup agreement includes listing of property owned by the couple and the share of property is decided for the time if the marriage dissolves. It is a myth that pre-nup agreements are only made by wealthy people, there are various other reasons behind preparing a pre-nup agreement. It can be prepared to assure the share of property that would come under the children’s share. Another reason could be to avoid dispute regarding the property if the couple gets separated in future. The main difference between a live-in relationship deed and a prenuptial agreement is that pre-nup agreement can only be made by the marrying couple and not by the couple who decides to cohabitate together.
Social Acceptance of Live-in Relationships in India
India is one of the rarest countries which has its culture still young and alive. In developing countries like India it becomes very difficult to go on with certain trends. With modernization hitting hard on the country some people refuse to keep a pace with the changing times. Live-in relationships are still looked upon as a taboo in Indian society as people see it as a threat to their old times culture.
Gurwinder Singh & Anr. V. The state of Punjab & Ors., in this leading case of Punjab & Haryana HC, it was observed that live-in relationship are morally and socially not acceptable.
Are Live-in Relationships same as Marriage?
There have been recent judgements in which the live-in relationships were given the status of a marriage. But are all live-in relationships to be considered as marriage and couples cohabiting together be looked upon as married couples?
Indra Sarma v. V.K.V Sarma, in this case the SC laid down the conditions for live-in relationships that can be given the status of marriage. It was held that “when the woman is aware of the fact that the man with whom she is in a live-in relationship and who already has a legally wedded wife and two children, is not entitled to various beliefs available to a legally wedded wife and also to those who enter into a relationship in the nature of marriage.”
Koppisetti Subharao v. State of A.P, in this leading case the court held that the classification “dowry” has no magical charm. It alludes to a request of cash in connection to a conjugal relationship. The court hasn’t accepted the contention of the defendant, since he was not legally married to the complainant.
Maintenance of Live-in Partners
The judgements of the court have clearly stated when a live-in relationship can be given the status of a marriage. So now the next question that arises is that, if a live-in relationship is given the status of a marriage then can the live-in partners seek maintenance from their significant other?
To this question there is a famous judgement in the case of Abhijit Bhikaseth v. State of Maharashtra and other cases, Supreme Court stated that it is not necessary for a woman to strictly establish the marriage to claim maintenance. Under Section 125 CrPc, a woman living in a live-in relationship may also claim maintenance under this section.
Children Born out of a Live-in Relationship
Another debatable topic that arises out of Live-in relationship is that of the status of the child born out of it. In recent judgements it was held by the court that the child born out of live-in relationship will be considered as a legitimate child.
This was the first time in which SC gave its verdict upon the legitimacy of children born out of live-in relationships.
S.P.S Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan, the SC had said, “If a man and woman are living under the same roof and cohabiting for some years, there will be a presumption under Section 114 of the Evidence Act that they live as husband and wife and the children born to them will not be illegitimate.
A similar judgement was given in Tulsa v. Durghatiya, that for the children born out of a live-in relationship would be considered legitimate only if the parents have cohabited for a significantly long time for the society to recognise them as husband and wife and it shouldn’t be a “walk-in and walk-out” relationship.
Rights of Live-in Partners
The live-in partners have been given some legal rights which are similar to that of a marriage right. These are:
- Right to maintenance: The live-in partners have been given the right to maintenance. In the year 2003, Section 125 of CrPc was fused in to adjust the word “wife” and include in it the women in a live-in relationship.
- Right to property: A woman’s right to ancestral and self-acquired is secured by the Hindu Succession Act after amendment in 2005. Therefore, her rights would remain intact no matter what her marital status is or if she is in a live-in relationship.
- Children’s inheritance rights: According to Section 16 of Hindu Marriage Act, even a child born out of a live-in relationship have the right to self-acquired properties of their parents.
The right of child born out of Live-in relationship was decided in Bharata Matha & Ors. V. R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors. It was held in this case that child born out of a live-in relationship may be allowed to succeed inheritance in the property of parents but doesn’t have claim against Hindu Ancestral Coparcenary Property.
- Right against cruelty or any other abuse: A woman in a live-in relationship is provided protection against all kinds of abuse under the Domestic Violence Act, 1955 which is same as that of a married woman.
As there are no laws for Live-in relationships and the above stated judgements can only be used as precedents to win a case. Therefore, in spite of all the judgements, there is utmost need of provision in law that deals with the rights and duties of the couple in a live-in relationship and also deals with the status and protection of child born out of such a relationship.