LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP: LAW AND PRACTICE
Author: Pooja Dilip Pawar, LL.B., NBT Law College, Nashik, Maharashtra
The concept of the live-in relationship was a taboo in India. In the 21st century, India is changing in innumerous ways. Society accepting new cultures live-in relationships is no exception. Live-in is the cohabitation of unmarried couples without any commitment. If one is married and other is non married their legal status is still unclear. Also, their different religion makes law complexed to interpret rights relating to them. Various reasons are encouraging this new culture in youngsters. Yet it is seen mostly in urban areas or metro cities and not in rural areas. It is unacceptable by the old culture society because living together with a young man and woman without marriage seems inappropriate.
The main problem of living in a relationship is the absence of clarity of relationship. As marital relation is legally recognized and has moral responsibilities but there are no such implications in Live-In Relationship. This leads to ambiguity and instability. Absence of clarity in the live-in relationship makes it difficult for the law to define the rights, duties and obligations of the parties.
Reasons behind practising Live In Relationship in India
1. Western Lifestyle: Accepting new culture and norms makes a person concerned about self-consciousness. In Western countries youngsters mostly practising live in culture to avoid family drama and boundness.
2. Increasing number of failed marriages: Family history of unpleasant relations or divorce discourages a person to have faith in marriage relations. Being in relation but having the freedom to escape is mainly behind accepting to live in the culture.
3. Work culture and financial freedom: There are no formalities, responsibilities, or marriage to follow in life also one has financial freedom.
The legality of Live-In Relationship in India
The Supreme Court in many cases has opinionated that man and woman living together cannot be an offence. A lady about 21 years old has the right to live with a man if both so wished. It was held that it is presumed that partners living together for a very long term as a husband or wife. In western countries, relationships are defined.
Indian judiciary is consistent about such new concepts as it neither prohibits or neither expressly promotes such concepts nor prohibits such sort of relationships. It is, however, just concerned that there should not be any miscarriage of justice. Therefore, while deciding various cases, the judiciary has kept in mind various factors including both societal norms and constitutional values.
In India, there is no particular law regarding matters arising out of the live-in relationship. Indian laws are still unclear about the status of such relationships.
Status and right of maintenance in a live-in relationship
According to the Sec. 2(f) of the Act 2005, domestic relationship as a 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 like marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family. Though the live-in relationship is not categorically defined in the Act but left to the courts for interpretation. Courts presume live-in relationships to be covered under the ambit of the expression as the words nature of marriage and live-in relationship stand on the same line and meaning. This gives women some basic rights to protect themselves from the abuse of fraudulent marriage, bigamous relationships. For claiming rights under this section women has to show that, though there was no marriage but relationship was like a marriage.
Section 125 of CrPC gives a legal right of maintenance to women in or out of marriage.
The legitimacy of a child born out of Live In
As the Supreme Court ruled out that couples who are living or cohabiting together for a very long period, they will be presumed as legally married until proven otherwise.
Inheritance rights of children born out of live-in relationships
The Supreme Court held that a newborn born out of a live-in relationship is not entitled to claim inheritance in Hindu ancestral coparcenary property (in the case of an unbroken joint Hindu family) and can only claim a share in the parents' self-acquired property.
Marriage is a sacred ceremony with performing rites and rituals two people get married by their religion and get bound for a lifetime. In the evolving society, the concept of marriage and living together has been changed. People are slowly and gradually opening their minds towards the idea of pre-marital relations but criticism is still there.
 Payal Katara v/s Superintendent Nari Niketan Kendra vihar Agra and ors
 Badri Prasad v/s DY Director of Consolidation, 1978
 Mary Hayes, The Law Commission and the Family Home, 53(2) The Modern Law Review p. 223 (1990).