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Live-in Relationship: An Indian Perspective

India is distinct from other nations because of its rich cultural traditions as well as its moral and social values. The institution of marriage is as old as human civilization in India. Marriage is a sacramental institution and a relationship that cannot simply be severed between two persons of different sexes. Marriage-based relationships are socially and legally accepted among Indians in our nation.

In addition to this, modern young are increasingly embracing western culture, which has sparked the rapid emergence of a new type of living arrangement known as the live-in relationship. But regrettably, this form of partnership is not very well accepted in society. A live-in relationship is when two people choose to cohabitate under the same roof without getting hitched.

It is a long-term relationship behaviour that resembles marriage. A live-in relationship is one that is unrestricted by obligations and responsibilities, unlike a typical marriage. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and all other statutory laws do not recognise it. The supreme court of India recognized live in relationship as legal relationship and is not considered as prohibited relationship.

Objective Of Research
  1. To Define The Concept Of A Live-In Relationship.
  2. To Study The Legal Status Of Live-In Relationships In India.

In India, there is a lot of discussion and controversy about the legality and effects of live-in relationships on interpersonal relationships in society. Long-term living together as a man and woman has always been considered legal marriage. The Supreme Court explicitly stated that a live-in relationship is not illegal, and a woman in a live-in relationship was granted support in 2010. However, the year 2010 witnessed a number of rulings relating to live-in partnerships.

The article aims to clarify the present legal position of live-in relationships in India and attempts to describe the idea of live-in relationships in depth. The article also tries to look into recent developments in the attitude of the Courts in granting various rights to live-in partners in India, and analysis of such judgments.[1]

Historical Aspect Of Live In Relationship Under Three Broad Classifications:

Vedic Period
Manu asserts that although premarital unions existed in the Vedic era and thereafter, they were uncommon. As a result, the idea of living together before marriage is not a novel one in India; live-in relationships have long been there. Even though marriage was the norm in ancient India, premarital relationships are depicted and acknowledged in Hindu scriptures.

Although the phrase "live-in relationship" may seem novel, the idea is not. Eight different kinds of marriages Brahma marriages, Daiva marriages, Arsha marriages, Prajapatya marriages, Asura marriages, Gandharva marriages, Rakshasa marriages, and Paisacha marriages are all attested to in the Vedas. One of the eight types of Hindu marriages, Gandharva marriage, involves events that are strikingly comparable to those in a live-in relationship .

The Gandharva form of marriage was the most common during the Vedic era. A type of marriage known as a "Gandharva marriage" allows the couple to live together because of love and consent, finally becoming married consensually.

Shakuntala and Dushyanta are a well-known couple that chose this type of union. Gandharva marriage is a type of union in which the woman selects her own spouse.[2]

According to Apastamba Grhyasutra, an ancient Hindu literature, Gandharva marriage is the method of marriage where the girl selects her own husband. They meet each other of their own accord, consensually agree to live together, and their relationship is consummated in copulation born of passion.

This form of marriage did not require consent of parents and The Gandharva marriage method is defined by the ancient Hindu text Apastamba Grhyasutra as the marriage when the girl chooses her own husband. They meet on their own, decide to live together amicably, and then consummate their relationship through passionate copulation. The consent of the parents and anyone else was not necessary for this type of marriage.

This was one of the earliest and most common type of marriage during the Rig Vedic period, according to Vedic records. In the Mahabharata, one of the two great Hindu epics, Rishi Kanva, Shakuntala's foster father, suggests the Gandharva union, saying that it is the best union possible between a desiring woman and a desirous man, without the use of rituals.

Medieval Period:
Concubines were used in the past to help wives who were unable to have children by producing large numbers of offspring. Concubinage, however, also enjoyed legal tolerance in mediaeval times between two unmarried individuals, much like the position of common-law marriage. Although concubinage has been a prevalent practice throughout history in many cultures, concubines' social and legal standing has changed with time, ranging from sexual servitude to common-law marriage.

Modern period:
The drive to end evil practices was launched in modern India with the entrance of social reformers and British Indian Laws, which led to a decline in the ties between Concubinage is the legal status of a man and woman cohabitating as husband and wife without enjoying all the rights and benefits of a legal union.

Concubna, a name formed from con (with) and cubare in Latin, is whence the word concubna originates (to lie). A woman who engages in this kind of relationship is referred to as a concubine.

Concubine has the potential to persist for the remainder of a person's life. It is also extremely easy to discontinue because the woman and her children often have little legal protection in this relationship.

The practice of keeping concubines was in existence even after the independence of India. Gujarat for a long time had a friendship contract entered into voluntarily between a man and a woman, which provides that the woman would exercise no claim on the man during or after the relationship beyond friendship and Family.[3]

Even after India gained its freedom, the custom of having concubines persisted. For a very long time in Gujarat, a man and a woman might willingly engage into a friendship contract that stated that the woman would have no rights over the guy other than those of a friend. Those written agreements between persons of two opposing sexes to be friends, live together, and take care of one another were officially referred to as maitray karaars .

Maitray Karars:

In a relationship known as "Maitray Karars" or the "companionship contract," heterosexual individuals of two opposite sexes agree in writing to treat one another as friends, live together, and take care of one another. This was a bigamy-alternative that had its beginnings in Gujarat. The Hindu Marriage Act forbids such a guy from remarrying if his wife is still living or hasn't filed for divorce from him.

he Maitray-karar is a form of covenant between a married Hindu man and his "other woman" to get over this restriction. Consequently, a Maitray Karar is an agreement between a married man and an unmarried woman that formalises the terms and circumstances of support, provision of food, clothing, and housing and all other necessities of life between them for living together. However, women contracted in Maitray Karar had a more vigorous status than women in a live-in relationship.

Non-marital Cohabitation or "Dapa" which is popular among Garasia community which is found in Rajasthan . However, under a Garasia community in Rajasthan, this practice has been in a tradition since time immemorial. This kind of living arrangement in the northwestern state of Rajasthan is also called by the name as "Dapa" by some experts.

Since women have a high status in such an arrangement, the tribals of the Garasia clan have been practicing this custom for thousands of years, which has led to a low number of rape and dowry death cases in the state of Rajasthan. Due to a lack of funds, they are able to stay together and even start a family without having to get legally married first.

For the Indian tribe, marriage is an unfamiliar concept. Living together is the norm in the Garasia community. Thus, live-in relationships are important to Garasia culture and will be accepted by the majority of Indians .

Nata Pratha:

The extremely old habit known as "Nata Pratha" is still practised today in a number of states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat. A male can live with as many ladies as he wants under the custom, which leads to parents abandoning their children. The Bhil tribe practices Nata Pratha.

In the past, the man and the lady were both expected to be married or widowed, but the tradition has since expanded to accommodate single people as well. Men and women can cohabit non-maritally for as long as they'd like in this Nata relationship without getting married. However, because of this tradition, a guy must now provide a financial contribution to the woman he want to live with.

Non-Marital Co-Habitation Among Tribes Of Jharkhand

In almost all tribal societies, men and women have equal rights, including the freedom to select a life partner. Consequently, a tribal girl from the Oraon, Munda, or Ho tribes of Jharkhand can choose a non-marital relationship with her male partner without getting married to each other in the form of a "Dhuku" marriage.

The women in such relationships are called "Dhukua" or "Dhukni," and they lack legal rights to property and other assets because the relationship is not socially recognized. Many couples who have been together for more than 20 years simply move in together and start a family since they are unable to plan a wedding feast. These couples are fighting valiantly to pay for a wedding despite their humble upbringings.

According to Nikita Sinha, an advocate for the legal rights of cohabiting couples, there are instances where the three generations of a family never wed because they lacked the funds to get hitched and hold a village feast. The reason the villagers forbid a grandson's marriage is that his grandfather decided to enter a live-in relationship rather than give a wedding feast, the woman claims.

The people in Jharkhand, who are unable to arrange their wedding followed by a feast for the entire village to make the wedding socio-legal recognition.[4]

Meaning Of Live In Relationship:

"It's better to have a live-in relationship rather than having a divorced life!"[5]

This is common and line favouring live-in relations in the world. Live in relationship are not new for western countries but these days the concept is adjusting its roots in east also. The word live in is controversial in many terms in eastern countries .

The definition and ambit of live in relationship is not clear. The 'live-in-relationship' is a living arrangement in which an un-married couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. Couple present themselves as spouse to the world.

'Live in relationship' means those relationship where there is no marriage between the parties, in the sense of solemnization of a marriage under any law. Yet the parties live as couple, represent to the world that they are a couple and there is stability Socio-legal dimensions of 'live-in relationship' in India and continuity in the relationship. Such a relationship is also known as a 'common law marriage.

Live-in relation i.e. cohabitation is an arrangement whereby two people decide to live together on a long-term or permanent basis in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship. Typically, the phrase refers to unmarried partners. A live-in relationship is a voluntary arrangement whereby two adults mutually agree to live together to conduct a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. "Live-in relationships are walk-in, walk-out relationships. There are no strings attached to these relationships as the relationship is free from any legal bond between the parties." It is in simple words, cohabitation.[6]

Reasons Behind Emergence Of Live-In Relationship:

  • They may want to test their compatibility before they commit to a legal union of Marriage.
  • Now a day's youth is losing faith in the institution of Marriage and they feels that marriage is unnecessary.
  • Most of couples go for live-in relations because they want to live free life on their own terms and conditions.
  • Existed marriage is unsuccessful and social difficulties arose in separation.

  • Most of the times Marriage is not being supported or allowed by family members due to inter-religion, inter caste or age difference etc. and many more factors that's why couple start living in Live-in Relationship.

  • Sometimes couples are scared from social legal obligations, responsibilities which get arises in a married life, thereafter as a parents.

  • Couple gives priority to the career rather than marriage. Therefore live-in relationship is best option for them where there is no commitment and no time for partner.

  • In order to escape from the loneliness in their lives senior citizens have also started preferring live in relationships.
  • With the change of time westernization has stepped into the shoes of Indian society and had thrown a negative impact on the youth for example: The dressing sense, eating habits and the most important one is the new kind of living arrangement i.e. Live-in Relationship came into existence.

  • At least 44.2% of divorces are predicted to occur in 2022. Based on a 6.1/1,000 total population marriage rate and a 2.7/1,000 total population divorce rate, this conclusion has been reached. People are choosing live-in relationships as a result of the rising divorce rate.

  • To establish financial security before marrying.[7]

Issues And Challenges Of Live-In Relationship

Although the live-in relationship is legal in the eyes of Law and numerous judgments in favour of live in relationship has been pronounced by the Hon'ble courts but there are some more complex grey areas that remain unresolved which are discussed below:
  1. Societal and Moral acceptance:
    Even if it is permitted, living together is nonetheless frowned upon and seen as unethical in Indian culture. Living together is frowned upon in Indian society. Indian society does not readily accept this type of relationship, thus couples frequently deal with issues like rejection from family, difficulty finding a place to live, rejection from society, hostility at job, etc.
  2. Official Documents:
    In India, there is still no category for a live-in relationship on any official paperwork. The couple has issues with their shared bank accounts, nominee names, insurance, visas, and other things.
  3. Cultural Issues:
    India is known for its different cultures and religions. Globalization has majorly impacted the human relations. The formally dominant family ties and values are witnessing rampant changes. Every religion has its perspective towards a live-in relationship . In India, beliefs, customs, usages, and culture significantly impact people's mindsets. Subsequently, acceptance of new norms depends upon the prominence of their belief rather than any law. The emphasis must be given to address the complications of anti-religion live-in relationships, which is still a sensitive issue.
  4. LGBT couple:
    The LGBT group frequently receives little compensation, and society is often reluctant to acknowledge their relationship. In fact, there is no provision for or discussion of LGBT couples in any laws or rulings regarding live-in relationships. Consensual same-sex sexual activity is no longer illegal in India because to the Supreme Court's decision to invalidate Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code 1861. However, same-sex marriage and live-in relationships are still illegal there. Although the Honorable Courts have recently given such liberal interpretations, there is currently no specific marriage statute for the LGBT community in India.

  5. Property rights related to anti-religion and the LGBT community:
    The primary issue with live-in couples is succession and property rights. Only Hindu law now provides property rights to children born out of a live-in relationship, and only on self-acquired property, not on family property. Muslim law has its own system for property allocation, and it has made no attempt to start any debates on time. There is no protection for the LGBT community, nor are there any provisions regarding property rights.

    It is illegal for an LGBT couple to give or leave property to their livein partner. Without properly resolving such upcoming issues and codifying relevant laws, there may be room for fraud, cheating and it may give rise to criminal fights in families over property issues.
  6. Gender biased:
    The 2005 Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act recognises a woman as a wife if she has shared an extended length of time with a man. Several conditions, including maintenance and property, are also in her favour. Regrettably, it makes no provision for males or LGBT couples. Men are often prosecuted for sexual assault and taking advantage of a woman by making a fake marriage vow. It may be contradictory; there is no provision for men to be strengthened in such a case. Likewise, no protection exists for the sexual abuse of a same-sex spouse.[8]

Legal Status Of Live In Relationship:

In Lata Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh [9]
The Supreme Court governed that live-in relationships are allowed between not married individuals of straight sex who are of legal age. When Lata Singh's brothers objected to her marriage, they said she was psychologically ill. When doctors evaluated her, however, this was shown to be inaccurate. A long-term live-in relationship can't be named a "walk in and walk out" relationship; marriage must have a presumption.

In Gokal Chand v. Parvin Kumari[10]
The Court informed the pair that their legitimacy would be questioned if there was rebuttable proof that they were living together. These judgments aided in the legitimization of marriages that had been questioned owing to the existence of a long-term live-in relationship. On the other hand, the courts didn't distinguish between live-in relationships and marriage formation, suggesting that the belief in marriage was necessary.

In SPS. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan[11], The Supreme Court ruled that long-term cohabitation by a man and woman in the same home, they believe they stay as spouse and wife under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, their children are not unlawful. This decision indicated that long-term live-in partnerships are legally regarded the same as marriages.

As this is still a matter of dispute, the courts may define live-in relationship to entail "living together as husband and wife" in order to eradicate individuals who form a live-in relationship "by choice" with no aim of marriage.

The Allahabad High Court held in Malti v. State of Uttar Pradesh[12]
that a woman who lives with a man cannot be considered his "wife". The woman was the man's chef, lived with him, and was intimately connected. It was also decided that "wife" should not be interpreted as including a live-in partner's support rights as defined in Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

In Chinmayee Jena v. State of Odisha,[13]
Indian Judiciary has played a vital role in explaining the concept of Live in relationship and defining the rights and liabilities of live in partners in a correct way.

"Love knows no bound has widened its bounds to encompass same-sex couples," Justice Ratho said.

The Orissa High Court recently made a ruling about a transgender man and woman's ability to live together in this case.

In another important case "Khushboo vs Kanaimmal and another,[14] the Supreme Court observed "Though the concept of live-in relationship is considered immoral by the society, but is definitely not illegal in the eyes of the law. Living together is a right to life and therefore it cannot be held illegal."

Mohabbat Ali v. Mohammad Ibrahim Khan[15]:
Privy Council pronounced that when a man and a woman cohabitated continuously for a number of years, the law presumes that they are a married couple.

Supreme Court of India in the case of Badri Prasad vs. Deputy Director of Consolidation[16]

The Supreme court for the first time recognized live-in relationships and upheld the validity of a fifty-year live-in relationship.

In Gulzar Kumari v. State of Punjab[17] and Ujjawal v. State of Haryana[18], the Court refused to grant protection to couples cohabiting in a live-in relationship, stating that such relationships are morally and socially unacceptable, and is capable of destroying the social fabric of the Indian society.

A live-in relationship might be an objectionable and new concept in India, but it is bourgeoning all over. In this contemporary lifestyle, which is partially emerging due to the rapid impact of globalisation, people are not ready to take responsibilities and indulge in a full-time devoted relationship.

For the youth voluntary relationship between couples based on the broader understanding of domestic cohabitation as well as recognition of pre-nuptial agreements, overall tolerance towards sexual preferences, etc. is a new attraction. Live-in relationship attracts them as a better way to live like marriage without marriage and any complications and worries , on the contrary, it needs much more responsibility and awareness on the socio-legal perspectives.

Today, the society and other organisations have also joined the judiciary in facilitating the legitimisation of the concept of live-in relationship, as the country is slowly opening its door to western culture, ideas and lifestyles.

A notable step has been taken by the Madhya Pradesh State Women's Commission which recommended that such unions be accorded legal status to secure the rights of tribal women in live-in relationships. The concept is gradually being accepted by the society now as a substitute for marriage but as an increasingly viable alternative.

It is now legalised, and PWDVA 2005 protects some of the rights of women in this relationship. Nonetheless .There is a need for a separate law which should emphasize socio, legal and secular aspects also to solve these complexities which still exist in the live-in relationship.

From the above judgments of various High Courts and Supreme Court of India, it can be concluded that the Indian judiciary has most of the time practiced interpretation of laws while protecting the rights of women and children associated with live-in relationship and certainly the Indian legal mechanism lacks separate legislation which must deal with the cases of live-in relationship and must provide with codified laws, and punitive measures.

One of the reasons why India lacks such laws is the moral and societal values dominated by the sophisticated culture of India, however with time revolving, there is an urgent need to enact new laws, and therefore, the legislature must enact a separate law regarding the same.

  3. Aggarwal Nomita (2002), "Women and Law in India", New Century Publications Benokraitis, N. V. (2011),
  4. Marriage And Families: Choices and Constrains, P. H. I. Learning Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi. Diwan, Paras and Divan Peeyushi (1994),
  5. Women and Legal Protection, Deep and Deep Publications, New Delhi. Gore M. S. (1968), Urbanization and Family Change, Popular Prakashan
  6. Venkatesan, J. Amend law to protect women and children in live-in relationships: Court. The Hindu 29 November 2013.
  7. Menon, Priya M. "Elders now explore Live-in Relationships." Times of India 5 January 2014.
  8. Muradande, Vijay V. "Socio-Legal Dimension of Live-in Relationship: A Challenge to Society."
  9. Madabhushi, Sridhar. "Live-in hassles." Witness. Vol.2, August 2010, p. 82.
  5. *
  6. **
  9.  (2006) 5 SCC 475
  10. AIR 1952 231
  11. 1994 AIR 133, 1994 SCC (1) 460
  12. 2000 CriLJ 4170
  13. Criminal writ petition 57/2020
  14. criminal appeal no. 913 of 2010
  15. (1929) 31 BOMLR 846
  16. 1978 AIR 1557, 1979 SCR (1) 1
  17. CRWP-4199-2021(O&M)]
  18. CWP No.11688 of 2018

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