To many India is synonymous to Bollywood. The industry with flashy dance
numbers, of heroes, of villains, of damsels in distress but most importantly of
cheesy romance flicks. It isn't news to anyone that while India maybe synonymous
to Bollywood, Bollywood is synonymous to romantic flicks.
One would assume for a country so crazed with the whole concept of heroes and
heroines, that love would be everywhere, that maybe we would have the highest
rate of love marriages. That maybe even though we're plagued with differences,
with secularism present only on papers, love is what would unite people, right?
It is rather ironic that with so much depiction of the concept and emotion of
love on screen that we are still stuck with the same society which in the very
same movies act as antagonists- them frowning over friendships between boys and
girls, the couple vs the world theme, the couple either being taken seriously
only after being married or even after said marriage being hunted down like
animals by their own families.
In the movies the hero and heroine brave through all the hurdles put in their
path, be it differences in caste, in class, in social standing, of parental
disapproval or even the villainous man the heroine was fated to marry prior to
falling in love. Movies are a two to three-hour long saga starting with
establishing society as an antagonist, the main leads falling in love, braving
the world against all odds and the power of their love convincing their parents
in the final climax. Of course, movies end in happily ever afters.
parents agree and society be damned. Movie characters are lucky, reality isn't.
In India love is still frowned upon, women being given free agency to think for
themselves and choose their own partners is frowned upon. Inter-caste,
inter-class marriages are frowned upon, killed in honour killing too oftentimes.
Not just marriages, relationships, live in relationships, premarital sex, in
fact even homosexual love or love in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, every single one of
them are viewed to be against our culture, to be these western concepts coming
and polluting our very pious heritage.
It does make one wonder, how do people claim these aspects to be detrimental to
society or to be anti-social things? How is a decision between two individuals
when a couple with consent on both ends are engaging in sexual relations or
cohabitation without any legal contract of marriage binding them affecting the
society as a whole? And more importantly why is it that when one expresses these
very opinions of basic dignity and free thought or a life free from interference
of an artificial society, they are called idealistic or liberal or anti
Thankfully, our nation isn't all that regressive either. Albeit against our
traditions our Indian law does have a few provisions to protect the interest of
these couples not shackled by the chains of marriage.
An important act with respect to relationships which do no fall under the ambit
of a marriage is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV Act),
2005 which protect dignity and rights of those women not coming under the hood
of regular matrimonial rights. The relationships where two people cohabit
outside marriage without any legal obligations towards each other are known as
live-in relationships. This is a relationship in the nature of marriage but
unlike a marriage.
This concept has slowly paved its way in the Indian scenario as well. However,
such relationships are considered a taboo in the Indian society. Although the
legal status of live in relationships in India is unclear, the Supreme Court has
ruled that any couple living together for a long term will be presumed as
legally married unless proved otherwise. Thus, the aggrieved live-in partner can
take shelter under the Domestic Violence Act 2005 or Section 125 of the Code of
Criminal Procedure, 1973.
We do still have a long and far way to go, but that does not erase the
milestones we have crossed up until today. Few such milestones will be
highlighted in this article with emphasis on cohabitation or as they call it,
Section 2(f) of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV 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
Section 2(s) of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV Act), 2005
states shared household
means a household where the person aggrieved lives or
at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with
the respondent and includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either
jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or owned or tenanted by
either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent
or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and includes
such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is
a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any
right, title or interest in the shared household.
20(1)(d) of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV Act), 2005 speaks
of monetary reliefs wherein the Magistrate may direct the respondent to pay
monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the
aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as a result of the
domestic violence and such relief may include, but not limited to:
(d) the maintenance for the aggrieved person as well as her children, if any,
including an order under or in addition to an order of maintenance under section
125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) or any other law for the
time being in force.
Section 125 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 states for maintenance of
wives, children and parents. Section 125 (1) speaks about refusal of any person
having sufficient means paying any maintenance to (a) his wife, unable to
maintain herself. Further provided in chapter that (b) wife includes a woman
who has been divorced by, or has obtained a divorce from, her husband and has
Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that:
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. Illustration
(i) states that There would be presumption in favour of wedlock if the partners
lived together for long spell as husband and wife; but it would be rebuttable
and heavy burden lies on the person who seeks to deprive the relationship of
legal origin to prove that no marriage took place.
Section 50 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that:
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, of 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 sections 494, 495, 497 and 498 of the
Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
Further, under illustrations it is expanded that:
- The question is, whether A and B, were married. The fact that they were
usually received and treated by their friends as husband and wife, is
- The question is, whether A was the legitimate son of B. The fact that A
was always treated as such by members of the family, is relevant.
- Andrahennedige Dinohamy v. Wijetunge Liyanapatabendige Blahamy
Since the time of Privy Council, a presumption for couples living together
without getting legally married had begun. This fact can be seen in this case.
Here the Privy Council took a stand that, where a man and a lady are proved to
have lived respectively as spouse, the law will presume, unless the opposite be
obviously demonstrated that they were living respectively in result of a
legitimate marriage, and not in a condition of concubinage
- Badri Prasad V. Dy. Director of Consolidation & Ors
This was the first case in which the Supreme Court of India recognized 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 favour of wedlock
where the partners have lived together for a long term as husband and wife.
Although the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seeks to
deprive the relationship of its legal origin. Law leans in favour of legitimacy
and frowns upon bastardy.
- Indra Sharma v. V.K.V. Sharma.
The recent judgment of the Supreme Court has illustrated five categories where
the concept of live in relationships can be considered and proved in the court
Following are the categories:
- Domestic relationship between an adult male and an adult female, both
unmarried. It is the most uncomplicated sort of relationship
- Domestic relationship between a married man and an adult unmarried
woman, entered knowingly.
- Domestic relationship between an adult unmarried man and a married
woman, entered knowingly. Such relationship can lead to a conviction under
Indian Penal Code for the crime of adultery
- Domestic relationship between an unmarried adult female and a married
male, entered unknowingly
- Domestic relationship between same sex partners (gay or lesbian)
The Court stated that a live-in relationship will fall within the expression
relationship in the nature of marriage under Section 2(f) of the Protection of
women Against Domestic Violence Act,2005 and provided certain guidelines to get
an insight of such relationships. Also, there should be a close analysis of the
entire relationship, in other words, all facets of the interpersonal
relationship need to be taken into account, including the individual factors.
Thus, the legal status of live-in relationships in India has been evolved and
determined by the Supreme Court in its various judgments. However, there is no
separate legislation which lays down the provisions of live in relationships and
provides clear cut legality to this concept.
In conclusion, marriage should not be the only kind of socially accepted and
legally respected relationship. The strength of a relationship cannot be
attested by a single legal paper. Perhaps while paving the path to development
and empowerment these aspects gain their long overdue, that is of course if we
do manage to focus on actual issues instead of cheap gossip being passed off as
news as is the state today