Legality of live-in relationships in India
Author: Yashi Sharma
In these modern times, where new ideas are being adopted and everything is evolving very fast, Indian society is facing a difficulty in adopting changes relating to relationships, especially live-in relationships. Live-in relationships are preferred by couples when they want to know more about each other before marriage. Where marriage is legally and socially accepted, live-in relationships still continue to struggle for this acceptance. Indian legal system doesn’t contain any specific law for people in live-in relationships.
Live-in relationships are not considered invalid in India but it is considered immoral in the eyes of people, they think that it is not good for a man and woman to live together with their consent without marriage.
Live-in relationship is a growing trend among young couples. Live-in relationships do not have any legal definition or any universally accepted definition. But it is also called as cohabitation in other countries. Live-in relationship can be defined as “ An arrangement of living under which the couples which are unmarried life together to conduct a long-going relationship similarly as in marriage”. In India, many times the Supreme court in its judgement indicated that live-is not illegal and rather it is right to life for an individual.
Even though there is no proper law or legislation for live-in couples in India, there are some responsibilities the couple hold towards each other. For example, there can be a chance of exploitation in live-in, in such a situation some legal provisions can be applied for the protection of the victim.
Where most of the countries of the world have considered live-in legitimate, there are still some countries which are not accepting live-in as valid. India is among those counties which are yet to accept the broad-minded concept of live-in relationships. Live-in is now considered as a need for the modern world couples, as it gives chance to an individual to develop with his/her partner without any legal problems.
LEGAL STATUS OF LIVE-IN IN INDIA:
There is no clear act, law or legislation governing legal status of live-in relationships in India. For example, there are various legal provisions for marriage under Hindu law, Muslim law, Sikh law and Christian law. However, none of these laws grant a clear legal status to live-in relationships.
The Indian law doesn’t provide live-in couples with any rights or obligations. However, still live-in relationships are legal in India as the Supreme court in landmark case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal &Anr held that live-in relationships comes within the ambit of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Court further held that live-in relationships are permissible and the act of two major living together cannot be considered illegal or unlawful.
Not only in this judgement but in case of Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan also, the bench including Justice Katju and Justice R.B. Mishra were in support of live-in relationships. In this case, they observed that a men and women can live together without getting married and that there is difference between law and morality. Also, in case of Lata Singh Vs. State of U.P & Anr,the apex court observed when two consenting adult of opposite sex are in live-in relationship, it does not amount to any offence.
Hence, from the various judgements of Supreme court it is clear that even though Indian judiciary doesn’t have any specific act, law or legislation for live-in relationship but it does safeguard the right of the individual in a live-in relationship.
LEGAL PROVISIONS FOR WOMEN IN LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP:
All personal laws such as Hindu law, Muslim law etc., have some provisions to protect women from exploitation but unfortunately these rights are limited to married women only, these laws do not contain any rights or provisions for a woman who is in live-in relationship. Hence, the Indian judiciary itself took a step towards providing these women their deprived rights.
The scope of maintenance of female partner was widened up under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Section 125 of the act offers a legal right to maintenance to the female partner both in and out of marriage. In the landmark case of Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha, the Supreme court of India held that when a man and woman have lived together for a long time, there is no need for them to fulfil the requirements of legal marriage and in such a case the man can be held liable for the maintenance of his partner.
Domestic violence is the issue faced by many women in India, but when it comes to protection of women who are in live-in relationship, there is Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This act protects not only married women from domestic violence but it also protects women who are in a relationship in the nature of marriage. However, every live-in couple cannot come under the criteria of relationship which is in the nature of marriage. In case of Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, the court laid certain conditions for live-in relationships which can be considered valid.
Hence, there are laws which protect women from being exploited even in a live-in relationship. Such law prevent man from misusing live-in relationships.
Live-in relationship is a very debatable topic not only in India but in other parts of the world also. Indian society has gone through many drastic changes in recent years, but the concept of live-in relationship is considered too broad to be accepted. Live-in relationships are still considered as immoral and unethical. Live-in relationships are mainly opposed because of pre-marital sex, which is considered wrong according to many religions.
Legal aspect of live-in relationships in India is not very broad. Laws are there to protect individuals in these relationships but still some laws are needed to clearly specify the rights of live-in couples.
Article “Emerging Concept of live-in-relationships” by Shahista Pathan(published manuscript in legal service India)
 A.I.R 2010 SCC. 600
Article “live-in relationship and Indian Judiciary” by Astha Saxenat(published manuscript in The SCC online blog)
 W.P. No. 16876/2001, MANU/UP/0288/2001 (All. H.C. May 17, 2001), 2001(3) AWS 1778
 AIR 2006 SC 2522
Article “Live-in relationships in India” by Amrita Chakravorty (published manuscript in India Filings)
 AIR 2011 SCC 141
 AIR 2010 SCC 469