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Live-In Relationship And Their Impact On Hindu Succession

India is a highly diversified country in terms of religious, cultural, and ethnic attractiveness. One important item to note is that the concept of a live-in relationship is not new, despite the fact that people have become more open about it in recent years.

Previously, it was known as Maitri Karar in a few districts of Gujarat, which meaning friendship agreement. In metropolitan cities, live-in relationships have now become a substitute to marriage; no one wants to be involved in the traditional significant duties of married life, and the top concern of the youth is their individuality.

However, there is question mark on the legitimacy of children born out of such relationship. In many of the judgements of Supreme Court has held the legitimacy of children born out of such relationship thereby giving them right to inherit property of their parents as class I heir of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. In Vidyadhari v Sukhrana Bai[1], the Supreme Court made headlines by giving inheritance and the status of "legal heirs" to those born from the live-in relationship in question. Moreover, section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 come to legitimizing the children born out of such relationship.

Unlike children born from a typical marriage, individuals born from live-in partnerships may find themselves in a legal limbo. This circumstance raises critical problems regarding fairness, ethics, and the changing ideals of society. It's a sensitive subject that sparks heated debate over how to make sure that all kids, irrespective of their parents' marital status, gets a fair share of their family's inheritance.

In this research, we will look at the various aspects of the right to inherit for children born from live relationships. We'll examine the legislative frameworks, societal viewpoints, and shifting attitudes that are driving this complicated and complicated problem.

Live-in relations and its legitimacy

Though in India, Live-in relationship is frowned upon by the society, yet courts have to recognise them by granting them legal status to such couples. Consider an array of and culturally wealthy India, where marriage and family have always been central to society. However, a significant shift has occurred in recent decades. Interpersonal relationships are now prevalent, upsetting existing norms and igniting questions over their legitimacy within India's complicated legal and societal framework. This essay dives into the complex question of the legality of live-in relationships in India, taking into account historical, cultural, legal, and societal perspectives.

To properly grasp the current situation of live-in relationships in India, let us go back in time to comprehend the context in which this transition has occurred. There was an array of cultural practises in ancient India that allowed for numerous sorts of voluntary unions. Consider the 'Gandharva Vivaha,' in which couples decided to be together on the basis of mutual consent. These practises provide insights on unorthodox couplings that were entirely legal in their historical setting.

In modern India, opinions towards live-in relationships are changing, particularly among the younger population. What is causing this shift? Consider young adults who prioritise their own liberty and the opportunity to choose life mates based on appropriateness and emotional attachments rather than feeling obligated to conform to established norms.

Consider thriving urban areas, where acceptability of live-in partnerships has surpassed rural areas. In these urban contexts, exposure to varied lifestyles, cultures, and ideas has had a huge impact on forming attitudes. Consider how popular culture - movies, television, and digital media - has normalised live-in relationships, portraying them as a viable and modern way of life. Consider the sense of autonomy that has resulted from women's improved economic independence and job prospects, which has resulted in a shift in gender dynamics inside relationships, contributing to a wider willingness to embrace non-traditional unions.

The legal environment in India addressing live-in relationships has changed significantly, with courts increasingly recognising and protecting the rights of persons in such unions.
Consider the Indian Supreme Court, which has routinely affirmed the legality of live-in partnerships. The court ruled in a landmark decision, 'Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma[2],' that living jointly without marriage is neither unlawful nor a sin. It emphasised the importance of the right to coexistence as a basic right. Recognise the dedication to defending the rights of women in live-in partnerships.

Several court decisions have recognised women's rights in such unions to upkeep, financial assistance, and inheritance. Explore the importance of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005, which expanded protection to include women in live-in relationships.

It acknowledges that they may be subjected to comparable sorts of neglect and mistreatment as married women. Consider the relief that partners in live-in partnerships have experienced as courts have consistently favoured providing property rights, recognising the economical and emotional interdependence that is often present in such arrangements.

Even with legal acknowledgment, acceptance by society of live-in relationships still a difficult task impacted by cultural, religious, and regional considerations. Consider how old mindsets, strongly based in cultural and religious beliefs, may stigmatise live-in relationships as morally undesirable. Consider the enormous family pressure on young adults to adhere to arranged marriages and traditional family structures, which can be difficult to resist.

Recognise the wide regional differences in attitudes towards live-in relationships, with some areas more accepting due to India's unique cultural tapestry. Consider the divide by generation, in which older generations tend to be more traditional while newer generations tend to be more progressive. Recognise that many people in live-in relationships may be unaware of their legal rights and protections, leaving them open to exploitation or abuse.

Consider the divide by generation, in which older generations tend to be more traditional while newer generations tend to be more progressive. Recognise that many people in live-in relationships may be unaware of their legal rights and protections, leaving them open to exploitation or abuse.

The legality of live-in relationships in India is fraught with difficulties and complexity. Consider the difficulties of defining when a live-in relationship qualifies as a long-term partnership, a contentious matter that has been addressed differently by different courts, resulting in ambiguity. Consider the difficulties associated with property conflicts between partners in live-in relationships, which can be difficult to resolve.

Legal frameworks are being developed to address these concerns, but more clarity is required. Consider the emotional complexities of child custody disputes when children are born in live-in relationships, presenting issues of guardianship and financial support. Consider how the law has evolved to accommodate new types of partnerships and family arrangements as society's norms and values evolve.

In India, the legality of live-in relationships has important economic and societal repercussions. Consider the economic empowerment that comes from live-in partnerships, which encourage financial independence and shared obligations among partners. Consider the mental and emotional well-being benefits of removing the stigma associated with live-in relationships, providing couples with a healthier atmosphere in which to nurture their bonds.

Visualise an individual's sense of choice and empowerment when they exercise their autonomy in relationships, contributing to their own growth and fulfilment. Consider the possibilities for live-in relationships to advance gender equality as changing dynamics shift towards more equitable partnerships.

Despite the fact that live-in couples lack legal standing or recognition, the concept is gaining acceptance, as evidenced by recent legislative advances. The Supreme Court formed the Malimath Commission for Criminal Justice Reform in 2003[3]. This Commission's report states that "the definition of 'wife' in Section 125 should be changed to include a woman who lived with the man as his wife for a reasonable period of time during the first marriage's subsistence[4]."

The legality of live-in relationships in India is a fluid issue that reflects the changing social dynamics of modern society. While India's legal system has gradually recognised people' rights and safeguards in such partnerships, societal acceptability remains a complex challenge driven by cultural, regional, and generational variables.

The acceptance of live-in partnerships reflects a broader movement in Indian society, which increasingly emphasises autonomy for oneself, choice, and gender equality. As India continues to combine tradition with modernity, it is critical for politicians, legal institutions, and society as an entire to participate in open and inclusive conversations concerning the legality of live-in relationships.

Such discussions ensure that people, regardless of their relationship status, can make educated decisions and live their lives with respect and with honour. Finally, the changing form of partnerships and the legality of live-in unions reflect the dynamic nature of India's social fabric, which adapts and redefines itself in response to its people's changing ambitions and values.

Rights of inheritance to live-in partners and children

Consider a world in which relationships are flexible, love knows no borders, and individuals are brought together not necessarily through marriage but through shared experiences and strong connections. The issue of inheritance rights for live-in partners and their children takes centre stage in this changing context. Marriage has always been the entrance to inheritance rights, but the development of live-in partnerships calls these traditions into question.

This essay delves into the complicated realm of inheritance rights for live-in partners and their children. We'll negotiate the legal landscape while also delving into the significant social consequences of this evolving aspect of modern family life.

Inheritance rights for live-in spouses and their offspring vary greatly among countries and regions. Let us see how different sections of the world address this issue:

India: The courts in India have played a critical role in creating the framework of law for live-in partnerships and inheritance rights. The Supreme Court has consistently upheld women's rights in live-in partnerships, guaranteeing they have access to maintenance, financial support, and inheritance. Recent legislative reforms have even extended property rights to such spouses, emphasising the necessity of equal access to assets.

In Bharata Matha & Ors. V R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors.[5], the Supreme Court of India declared that a child born out of a live-in relationship may be allowed to succeed inheritance in the parents' property, if any, and thus granted legal legitimacy. In the case, it was determined that, while both live-in relationships and marital partnerships are allowed, the disparate treatment of children from them can amount to a violation of Article 14 (see here), which ensures equality before the law[6].

Section 16 (3) of the Hindu Marriage Act[7] states that:
"Nothing contained in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be construed as conferring upon any child of a marriage which is null and void or which is annulled by a decree of nullity under section 12, any rights in or to the property of any person, other than the parents, in any case, where, but for the passing of this Act, such child would have been incapable of possessing or acquiring any such rights by reason of his not being the legitimate child of his parents". Thus, it means that children born out of such relations are entitled to inherit his parents' property but not the ancestral property.

However, in Revansidapa v. Malikarjun[8], the court noted that the term "property" in Section 16 of the HMA of 1955 does not include ancestral or self-acquired property. The definition of property is left up to the courts. In this case, the court ruled that illegitimate offspring might inherit both ancestral and self-acquired property from their parents. Despite the fact that there has been ambiguity in relation to the right of illegitimate children to inherit ancestral property, this case provided a new viewpoint on section 16 of the HMA[9].

Children born from a live-in relationship are presumed to be legitimate in Indian courts. Those offspring would be considered legitimate, not illegitimate, for whatever reason. However, just comparing illegitimate children to legitimate offspring does not guarantee equal rights. Legitimate children can inherit their parents' ancestral property, but illegitimate children who are legally recognised do not have the same right. Why can't illegitimate offspring of a live-in partner have the same legacy rights as legitimate offspring? As a result, the judicial decision respecting the live-in partner's offspring's inheritance rights is uncertain[10].

United States: The situation in the United States is a patchwork of laws that vary greatly from state to state. Some governments recognise common-law marriages, effectively awarding inheritance rights to partners who meet certain criteria after a specified period of living together. However, these qualifications and the acceptance of common-law marriages vary greatly, and not all governments recognise them.

European Union: Different nations in Europe have taken various methods to inheritance rights for live-in partners. While some countries recognise and protect cohabiting couples' legal rights, others need formal registration or proof of financial dependency to establish entitlements. The lack of consistency within the European Union shows the issue's complexities.

Beyond the legal complexities, rights to inheritance for live-in partners and their children have far-reaching societal implications:
  • Economic Security:

    The establishment of inheritance rights gives surviving partners and their children with economic security, reducing their vulnerability during times of loss or disaster.
  • Gender Equality:

    Legal acknowledgment of inheritance rights supports gender equality in live-in relationships by allowing equal access to assets and property for both partners.
  • Family Structure:

    The changing definition of family in live-in partnerships challenges established definitions, emphasising the significance of inclusivity and equality in inheritance laws.
  • Social Acceptance:

    Acceptance and normalisation of inheritance rights for live-in partners can help remove societal stigma connected with non-traditional family structures, making society more inclusive.
  • Legal Awareness:

    Increasing awareness of inheritance rights among people who have live-in partnerships is vital. It helps them to make informed decisions and access their rights, thereby protecting the financial well-being of their families.

Consider a world in which couples choose to develop their lives together based on commitment and shared experiences rather than simply formalising their connection through marriage. In this changing world, we face the difficult and emotive topic of inheritance rights, which is sometimes a sticky legal issue.

Traditional rules in many civilizations were written with a clear preference for the institution of marriage in mind. However, as people's ideas of relationships have evolved over time, we now find ourselves navigating a complex and sometimes unclear legal landscape. Couples who choose to live together without marrying, whether for personal reasons, cultural conventions, or practical reasons, frequently encounter significant legal obstacles in maintaining their inheritance rights.

The difficulty in proving the legality and longevity of these non-marital relationships is one of the key quandaries. Many live-in partners and their children find themselves in hazardous positions when their loved one dies because they lack the concrete legal documents that come with marriage. The lack of a marriage certificate can result in protracted legal fights, leaving those grieving for a partner or parent coping with complex legal issues.

The ramifications of these legal issues go far beyond the courtroom. Surviving partners and their children frequently face mental misery and financial difficulties, further complicating the already difficult process of grieving. The ambiguity around inheritance can leave families fighting to maintain their standard of life, adding stress to an already stressful situation.

Addressing these difficulties requires a multifaceted strategy. To recognise and safeguard the rights of persons in committed, non-marital partnerships, legal systems must evolve. This adaptation may necessitate examining and amending inheritance laws to include cohabiting couples, setting clearer criteria for proving the legitimacy of these partnerships, and establishing easily accessible legal mechanisms to resolve disputes that may emerge during the inheritance process.

This issue, however, is about more than just legislative reform; it symbolises a deeper societal transformation. Our modern society is characterised by varied family patterns, and it is critical to recognise and accept the personal decisions that people make. It is a matter of justice, empathy, and inclusivity to recognise and protect the inheritance rights of live-in partners and their children. It demonstrates our determination to build a society in which everyone's choices and relationships are respected, and where compassion and fairness are at the centre of our legal and social systems.

Finally, the legal difficulties regarding inheritance rights for live-in partners and their children strike at the heart of our humanity - our ability to love, commit, and care for one another. It's a call to action for lawmakers and society to handle these issues with empathy and compassion, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of marital status, are treated equitably and with dignity. This quest for justice not only strengthens our legal systems, but also enriches our communities by embracing the diversity of love and family in our ever-changing world.

  1. AIR 2014 SC 309
  2. See,,Procedure%20(CrPC)%2C%201973. Malimath Committee
  3. Sukriti Mathur and Mayank Raj Maurya, "Legitimacy of a child born in a live-in relationship", IPleader, 12 Sept, 2021, Available at Legitimacy of a child born in a live-in relationship (Last visited on 11 Sept, 2023)
  4. AIR 2010 SC 2685
  5. Supra note 3
  6. S.16(3), Hindu Marriage Act,1955
  7. Revansidapa V. Malikarjun, (2011) 11 SCC 1
  8. Manisha, "Legality of Inheritance Right in Nexus with Live- in Relationship", LawBhoomi, 20 June, 2022, Available at Legality of Inheritance Right in Nexus with Live- in Relationship (Last visited on 11 Sept, 2023)
  9. Ibid

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