Live-in relationship 

  • A live-in relationship in simple terms can be explained as a relationship in the nature of marriage where both partners enjoy individual freedom and live in a shared household without being married to each other. It involves continuous cohabitation between the parties without any responsibilities or obligations towards one another.
  • There is no law tying them together and consequently, either of the partners can walk out of the relationship, as and when they will do so.
  • However, the definition and ambit of live-in relationship are very unclear, there is no specific legislation in India on this subject, and the laws are in the form of court verdicts which varies from case to case.
  • There is no legal definition of a live-in relationship and therefore the legal status of such type of relationship is also unsubstantiated.
  • Indian law does not provide any rights or obligations on the parties in the live relationship.
  • The status of the children born during such a relationship is also unclear and therefore, the court has provided clarification to the concept of life in relationships through various judgments.
  • The court has liberally professed that any man and women cohabiting for a long term will be presumed as legally married under the law unless proved contrary
  • Although the legislature has not expressly made laws on live-in relationships, there are some statutes that suggest that the legislature has taken care of the issue.
  • For example, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, does not talk about live-in relationships but makes all those who are in a “shared household” accountable.
  • This means that a couple living together without lawful wedlock will also be covered under the Act. It provides for maintenance and the right of alimony for the aggrieved live-in partner in case things go wrong.
  • Thus, a man and a woman in a relationship will be considered husband and wife even in the absence of the customary rituals of marriage, vide section 2 (f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
  • The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 provides for the protection, maintenance, and right of alimony to a live-in partner if she complains.
  • Following are the landmark Supreme Court judgment on the concept of live-in relationship:
    Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation1978 

    • This was the first case in which the Supreme Court of India recognized a live-in relationship and interpreted it as a valid marriage. In this case, the Court gave legal validity to a 50-year live-in relationship of a couple. It was held by Justice Krishna Iyer that a strong presumption arises in favor of wedlock where the partners have lived together for a long term as husband and wife.
    • With changing social norms of legitimacy in every society, including ours, what was illegitimate in the past may be legitimate today.”
      — Honorable Justice A.K. Ganguly
    • The Hon’ble Court has opined that “A strong presumption arises in favor of wedlock where the partners have lived together for a long spell as husband and wife. Although the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin.” This principle has been further reaffirmed time and again in various cases.
    • In Tulsa & Ors vs Durghatiya & Ors 2008popularly known as Loli and Radhika case), Hon’ble Supreme Court held that if a man and woman live together and cohabit for a long period as husband and wife, there is the presumption of a valid marriage between them and that child born out of such relationship would be legitimate and have inheritance and succession.
    • In the same case, the Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justices Arijit Parayat and P. Sathasivam declared the child born out of such a relationship will no longer be called illegitimate.
    • However, in one of its judgments Alok Kumar vs. State(2009), the Delhi High Court has held that life in relation is a walk and walk out relationship and no strings are attached to it.
    • This kind of relationship does not create any legal bond between the partners. It further held that in the case of live-in relationships, the partners cannot complain of infidelity or immorality.

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