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Live-in Relationship: The New Normal?

Live-in relationships is defined as an arrangement of living under which the couples who are unmarried live together to conduct a long-term relationship similarly as in marriage. Now whether to be in relationship or not is most debated question. In Indian religious scripture many types of marriages has been described and one of them akin to live-in relationship is �Gandharv Vivah�. This article talks about the emerging of live-in relationships and its own advantages and dis advantages. As we all know that it�s not an offense neither a problem to our Indian society. It�s just about the way we think.

This article will be talking all about live-in relationship, its emergence, rights of the couple, children born out of such relationship, women rights, and the clarity given by our country�s highest court i.e. The Supreme Court of India on live-in relationships.

We people move towards �Modernization�. Many situations that was once considered as a problem to our society are now treated as normal. Homosexual relationships decriminalising section 377 and considering Trans genders as a third gender was just because of we opening up about such situations. One such situation which was never a new problem is �Live-in relationships.� Considering it as a chaos to the society is just not justifiable to it. When Supreme Court has itself gave clarity about live-in relationship is not an offense, we have to give a look about it too.

We all know that we are respecting our culture, traditions, and customs of our country. But with changing times, we have started following the Western culture. Chances are fair that the coming generations might forget the importance of marriage and follow illegitimate relationships. Live-in relationships directly affecting the status of wife, children, family, and whole country. Our society has to play important role of watchdog to deny concept of live-in relationship and misinterpretation of marriage. Otherwise our identity, humanity, and our rich ancient culture, tradition will be in grave danger.


Marriages in India is considered as an integral part of mankind and with the current progress of civilisation, it can be observed that there have been various regulations in respect to all aspects of human lives, and marriage is one of them.

In India, The legitimation of the nuptial bond of two people happens only after attaining sanction from the existing personal laws prevailing in the country.

Most of the marriages in the country are arranged by parents or relatives, even in the educated class and their children are expected to accept their parents� decision with respect to marriage unconditionally.

Live-In Relationships:

Live in relationships is an arrangement between two individuals who mutually agree to live together and walk out in the event of the relationship not working. This kind of relationship is neither a crime nor a sin. But like mentioned earlier, in a country like India, where marriages are considered as a social foundation to legalize the relationship between a man and a woman; the concept of Live-in-Relationship has set up a new dimension in the arena of men-women relationship.

How live-in helps to address the issue of compatibility between the couple?

  • You have similar upbringing and share same core values
  • Your put efforts to understand each other
  • There�s a sense of belongingness
  • You keep the relationship quiet open by sharing everything, be it good or bad
  • You have your partner by your side whenever required
  • Your interests overlap and you have fun together.
  • You both take responsibility and apologize when there�s an argument
  • You�re committed to growing together.
  • You don�t have trust issues and are open to accept mistakes.
  • When you give your partner the priority.

When all these points above fall in place it means the couple are compatible, maybe even if there�s something that�s not fitting in they can still figure out to fix these issues.
For most people in India, marriage is a one-time event in life, which sanctified and glorified with much social approval. Marriage is a social necessity; marrying children is the primary responsibility of parents in India. �Daughters should be married as soon they become young in early twenties and sons married as soon as they start earning� is still a taboo.

Married couples are accorded respect in the community. Non-solemnization of marriage is a social stigma. Social values, customs, traditions and even legislation have attempted to ensure stability of marriage.

What we as a country fail to address as main issues are the Compatibility between the couples. Instead of fixing the marriage on basis of families will and wishes the individuals have to figure out if they can make the relationship work. Marriage is not just two families becoming one but it�s a very big decision that an individual has to take as it is a new chapter in one�s life. If an individual isn�t ready and isn�t financially established it will lead to various issues in one�s personal life. Secondly, an individual has to be given the rights to choose whom he/she wants to spend their lives with.

This is exactly what Poet Kahlil Gibran tells in his poem- On Children �Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.�

The main reason why there is increase in the number of divorce cases in the country is because couples aren�t given the leverage to check how compatible they are.
But, despite all these issues the country is seeing a huge influence from the western culture. The society has shown a drastic change, in terms of woman empowerment to accepting same sex marriages.

Live-in Relationships has been one among the change in our society.
Live in relationships has given a new outline as to how people see their relationships.
Feeling of belongingness and being loved is what most people want but the tie that marriage binds is too binding for them.
And an alternative is a relationship that resembles marriage but without its obligations and responsibilities. This is when live-in relationships come into picture.

Why live-in relationship is the arena of men-women relationship?

There�s no relationship which works very well within a short-period of time, it requires lots of understanding and efforts. Similarly if there is something that isn�t working between the couple it is necessary that both of them should come together and resolve the issue.

Often, couples tend to solve issues but if there are things that aren�t working they are free to walk-out.

And this is where live in is different from Marriages. In a marriage if one is willing to walk out of the marriage there are some legal proceedings one has to follow, and the denial from families and much more chaos, it�s simple; its quiet difficult to move out of marriage but it is very easy to convert a live-in relationship to marriage.

Be it whether it is for a short period or for a quiet long time, when you live with someone you tend to understand that person better. And firstly the person whom you choose to live-in with will be the person of your choice and not your family�s.

Rights in Live-In Relationship:
Before, the meaning of live-in meant no responsibility, but now the legal position has changed after various landmark judgements.

When it comes to rights for the couples in live-in relationship:

  1. It could be seen that whether they are having rights to be in such relationship
  2. Rights of the children born out of such relationship,
  3. Can couples adopt or give their child in adoption,
  4. Women rights in live-in relationship.
There exists no uniform civil code in India and marriages are most of the times are governed under personal laws of every Individual. The concept of Live-In Relationships is not expressly recognized by the legislature however the Courts in India time and again while distinguishing morality from law have upheld the validity of such relationships keeping in mind the constitutional principles.

Legislations where it�s evidently seen discussing about live-in relationships are:

  • Domestic Violence act, 2005
  • Criminal procedure code, 1973
  • Evidence act, 1872.

Let�s see all such rights in detail:

The first observation of live in relationships was seen in the case of Badri Prasad v. Dy Director of Consolidation.[1] Where it was held, for the very first time, that live in relationship can be recognized and be interpreted as a valid marriage to a 50 year old live in relationship of a couple.

Also in the landmark judgement of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal and anr. [2] The Supreme Court of India dropped all the charges against the petitioner who was a south Indian actress. The petitioner was charged under Section 499 of IPC and it also claimed that the petitioner endorsed pre-marital sex and live in relationships.

The Constitution of India has given certain fundamental rights and freedoms to the people. Under Article 19of Indian Constitution, Indian citizens have a fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India. Apart from this article, Article 21 of Indian Constitution confers Right to Life to every person. One�s wish to reside with a partner of their choice and establish sexual relationship is governed by the above mentioned rights and freedom. However it is to be kept in mind that such rights and freedoms are not absolute.

The court has given clarity stating that living relationships is not illegal or an offense in the eyes of law, though it is considered immoral in the eyes of the conservative Indian society. The court also stated that live in relationships is a right to life and personal liberty [3]and therefore is not illegal.

In the case, Lata Singh v. State of U.P. and Anr[4], the Supreme Court of India observed live-in relationship between two heterogenic sexes does not amount to any offense.

Presumption of Live-In Relationship:

the courts have observed by passing time that a long continued live in relationship can raise a presumption of marriage. Such a presumption raised by the courts to safeguard the interests of the parties to such arrangement and the children born out of such arrangements.

Section 50 of Indian Evidence Act, states Opinion on relationship, when relevant:

When the Court has to form an opinion as to the relationship of one person to another, the opinion, expressed by conduct, as to the existence of such relationship, or any person who, as a member of the family or otherwise, has special means of knowledge on the subject, is a relevant fact: Provided that such opinion shall not be sufficient to prove a marriage in proceedings under the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 (4 of 1869) or in prosecutions under section 494, 495, 497 or 498 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

Contradiction in evidence of relationship of witness of trifle nature, not material in a partition suit; Gowhari Das v. Santilata Singh[5].
Section 114 of Indian Evidence Act, states Court may presume existence of certain facts. �The Court may presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have happened, regard being had to the common course of natural events, human conduct and public and private business, in their relation to the facts of the particular case[6].

In the case of Tulsa and ors v. Durhgatiya and ors[7], the Supreme Court gave legality to a 50 year live in relationship by reading the provisions of section 50 along with section114 of Indian Evidence Act together respectively. It was held that the court may presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have occurred. It can be presumed from the common course of natural events and the conduct of parties as they are borne out by the facts of a particular case. It also held that a strong presumption arises in favour of wedlock where the partners have lived together for a long time as husband and wife.

Also in the case Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant[8], the Supreme Court held that the live-in relationship if continued to be in existence for a long time and not as termed �walk in and walk out�, then it will a presumption of marriage between the parties.

Thus, we can say that The Supreme Court of India clearly inferred that it is in favour of treating long term live-in relationship as marriage rather giving making it as a new concept like live-n relationship.

Children Born Out Of Such Relationship:

Children form the most fundamental unit of a modern day progressive society and their fate is often determined by the social relations governing every sphere of lives. They just enlighten ones lives and fill the happiness in their life.

In this light, it is often argued that Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 through section 16 dealing with the legitimacy of children of void and voidable marriages. But if we see the law it is proven that even the legitimacy of child even if it is illegitimate will be enjoying the rights of inheritance of their biological parents.

It is said that may be the marriage be void or voidable but the children who are born out of it, will be considered as legitimate because it�s not their mistake. The innocent child is labelled with such a tag without having any fault of its own and has to suffer the consequences of its parent�s actions.

In the case of SPS Bala Subramanyam v. Sruttayan[9], the Supreme Court held that if a woman and a man living under same roof and cohabiting for a number of years, there will be presumption under Section 114 of Indian Evidence Act that they live as husband and wife and the children born to them will not be illegitimate. Also the court upheld the legitimacy of the children born out of live-in relationships and interpreted the statutes in concurrence with the Article 39(f) of the Constitution of India which lays down the responsibility on the state to provide children with opportunities to develop in a healthy manner and safeguard their interests.

Also in cases like Tulsa v. Durghatiya[10] held that children born out of such relationship will not be treated as illegitimate instead will have right to enjoy their parent�s inheritance, if any and subsequently given legitimacy in the eyes of law.[11]

Adoption and Custody of Child of Couples in Live-In Relationship:

Earlier in May 2018, CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority), barred the applicants in live-in relationships from adopting a child stating that they want the child to be living in a stable family and live-in relationships. But later in September 2018, the secretary of the Woman and Child Development Ministry, RK Shrivastava stated that from now, even live-in relationship which will be benefiting for domestic and also international applicants.

Now when it comes to the custody of child in live-in relationships, it is often seen that due to lack of legislation, it is easy to get into such relationship but difficult to get out. Custody issues of child born out of live-in relationship arising at the time of separation is similar manner as in the case of marriage due to the absence of specific laws for such a scenario.

Under Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, Section 6(b) it says that if the child is unmarried and illegitimate, her mother and then her father would be there as guardian. Custody is something that would be decided by the court. Since we can see that under Hindu Law, children born out as legitimate or illegitimate are considered as legitimate, so this says that live-in relationships are indirectly been specified in laws.

Women Rights Under Live-In Relationships:

We all know that women has special rights like maintenance, protection from domestic violence, etc. but what about women who are in live-in relationships? So to clear that and protect such women Section 2(f) of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 states:
domestic relationship means 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 in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family[12].

This was an extension of section 2(f) of Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Because earlier there was no such definition which include the sentence �at any pint of time�. The Supreme Court of India thought to give an extension of that section just to make justifiable to the women in live-in relationships[13].

Live-in relationships has always been a focused debate. But India has now witnessed the drastic change in the current generation�s perception towards their relationships. The taboo that the individuals in live-in relationships were facing has now changed and it isn�t haunting them anymore due to the society opening about such relationships and accepting pre-marital sex and live-in relationships. This change of improved mind set is just because of the freedom, privacy, profession, and globalisation.

The first thing that people need to understand that live-in relationships is not only just walk-in or walk-out relation. Its understanding between two individual�s personality and compatibility between them. Live-in relationships when it came out as a case in Supreme Court, from then it was never an illegal neither a prohibition under law. It was always the mind set of people who created a taboo.

Due to globalization and new thinking way of upcoming and present generations, things like live-in relationships, gay marriages, transgender are being normalised.

Live-in relationships are ones individuals� choice which should be respected. Though there are people who think live-in is such relationship which creates a bad impact on pure sanctity marriage. But to be honest it has its own effect and importance and does not cover a dark shield to the marriage.

Hence live-in relationships cannot be called as taboo to the society nor can be said as bad impact on pure sanctity, marriage.

Just respecting others choices and not harming ones liberty would automatically solve many problems in India.

  1. Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation and others [1978] Insc 119; AIR 1978 Sc 1557
  2. S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal and anr. (2010) 5 SCC 560
  3. Article 21 of Indian Constitution.
  4. Lata Singh v. State of U.P. and Anr, AIR 2006 SC 2522
  5. Gowhari Das v. Santilata Singh, AIR 1999 Ori 61
  6. indian kanoon, n.d
  7. Tulsa and Ors v. Durghatiya and Ors (2008) 4 SCC 520
  8. Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant (2010) 9 SCC 209
  9. SPS Bala Subramanyam v. Sruttayan AIR 1992 SC 756
  10. Tulsa v. Durghatiya (2008) 4 SCC 528
  11. Matha and OPrs v. R. Vijaya Reganathan and Ors. (2010) 11 SCC 483
  12. indian kanoon, n.d
  13. Indra sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma (2013) 15 SCC 755
Written By:
  1. Anarghyaa Prakash &
  2. Balijepalli Mythili Sruthi

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