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Live-in Relationship: An Interpretation in India

Marriage is seen as a sacramental institution in India, and it is founded on the concepts of responsibility and tolerance. These rules have been maintained for decades, and people have seen it as their responsibility to follow them when they marry. However, as Indian society progressed, people began to explore alternatives to marriage, since the modern generation began to view marriage to be a burden. In Indian civilization, a significant shift in living patterns has been noticed over time.

This prepared the ground for the concept of live-in relationships to evolve in India. Live-in relationships do not give rise to the same privileges and duties as a lawful marriage. Neither the guy nor the lady are obligated to have any obligations to each other. Because this is a novel notion in India, it has been widely criticised and debated due to its lack of legality and social acceptance.

It is not acceptable to be in a live-in relationship.- High Court of Punjab and Haryana
In a recent judgement on May 12, 2021, the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed a plea-protection petition filed by a young live-in couple who had moved the court after receiving threats from the girl's family, stating that "if such protection as claimed is granted, the entire social fabric of the society would be disturbed."

In their petition, the 18-year-old woman and her 21-year-old companion stated that the woman's parents were opposed to their marriage and that the family pushed her to marry a guy of their choosing. The pair decided to elope and have been living together for the past year. They went to court to settle their grievances after failing to get protection from the police.

After hearing the case, Justice Madaan's bench concluded that the petitioners were seeking approval of their live-in relationship by filing the petition, which is socially and morally wrong. As a result, he dismissed the petition, declaring that no protection order could be issued as a result of the case.

Advocate J.S. Thakur, the petitioner's lawyer, stated that the girl was 19 years old and the male was 22 years old, and that both of them intended to marry each other. However, they were unable to marry due to the girl's family's holding of certain documents, such as the Aadhar card. Because the Supreme Court had already upheld the live-in relationship, the petitioners' attorneys went to the High Court to seek protection of their lives and liberty until they married.

Another High Court bench, led by Justice Kshetarpal, stated that granting protection to a runaway pair in a "live-in relationship" would disrupt the "social fabric of the country."

While refusing to award the pair protection, the High Court bench noted that Petitioner 1 (female) is only 18 years old and Petitioner 2 (guy) is 21 years old. They've been living together in a live-in relationship and are suing the girl's relatives for protection of their lives and freedoms.

Live-in Relationships and Their Legal Status
By issuing its order, the Court called into question the entire well-established judicial trend of legalising live-in partnerships. Domestic relationship is defined by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 as a relationship between two people who live or have lived together in a shared household at any time, and are related by consanguinity, marriage or a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption, or are family members living together as a joint family.

Although the phrase "live-in" is not defined in the Act, this provision expanded the scope of the courts' jurisdiction to include cases of domestic violence in marriage-like situations. The word "relation in the nature of marriage" was understood by the courts to include live-in relationships. This provided women with fundamental protections against the abuses of deceptive partnerships.

The Allahabad High Court granted protection to the couple who were living together in the case of Kamini Devi v State of Uttar Pradesh, stating that an arrangement between two consenting adults was not an offence and that no one was allowed to interfere with their peaceful living, which would violate their right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. According to the division bench, once a boy and a girl have reached the age of majority and have freely chosen to live together, no one, including their own parents, has the authority to intervene in their living arrangements.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court's displeasure with the applicants' youth runs counter to their own precedent. The same court ruled in Priyapreet Kaur v State of Punjab in December 2020 that parents do not have the right to force their children to live their lives on their terms. The applicants in this case were 18 and 19 years old. Despite the fact that the boy was not of legal marriageable age, the court determined that the female petitioner, who was living with petitioner 2, had every right to make her own decision. The petitioners in this case had the freedom to live their lives on their own terms because they had reached the age of majority.

The order of May 12, 2021, is widely regarded as a significant reversal of the Indian judiciary's progressive jurisprudence. The Punjab and Haryana Courts, for example, have recognised young people's rights to conduct their lives on their own terms. Some people believe that live-in relationships and premarital sex are a "assault on marriage's primacy."

While it is undeniable that marriage is a significant social institution in India, one must constantly keep in mind that there are a number of people who hold opposing viewpoints. Not only is it a breach of Article 21 to deny protection to couples who are living together, but the necessity of marriage also creates a set of barriers for same-sex couples who are unable to marry legally even if they wish to.

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