In India, the legality of live-in relationships is quite subdued. Although
living in a relationship is neither a crime nor a sin, it is somewhat frowned
upon in Indian culture. In a country like India, where weddings are considered
the social basis for legalizing the union of a man and a woman, the concept of a
live-in relationship has added a new dimension to the relationship between a man
and a woman.
With the passage of time and modernization, the social dynamics of India have
seen several favorable improvements. Several judgments challenged ancient
notions of Indian society. However, some social facts remain unaccepted and
viewed through the perspective of patriarchy; a typical example is live-in
relationships. While a section of the Indian population has accepted it, a large
section remains against the idea. Even though films like 'Luka Chhuppi' have
helped normalize it in Bollywood and local cinema, there is still some
Marriage and Live-in Relationship
In India, marriage has been considered a sacred union since the Vedic period.
Marriages in India are conducted either under the personal law of the religion
to which the party belongs or under the provisions of a special marriage law.
Marriage is legally a contract between a man and a woman in which the parties
agree to live together and support each other.
The concept of marriage has progressed over time. Marriage is usually defined as
one of the basic civil rights after an official ceremony. It has a legal meaning
and assumes several duties and responsibilities in matters of property
inheritance, succession and the like. Marriage consequently includes the legal
presumptions of custom, exposure, selectivity, and all the legal results that
flow from that relationship.
Unlike many other countries, live-in relationship has not yet been socially
accepted in India. However, with the steady progress of society and the
far-reaching complexities of marriage, people are opting for an alternative
institution such as cohabitation to create a permanent marital relationship that
is like marriage but outside of marriage.
What is Live-in Relationship
Although the term "live-in relationship" is difficult to define, it refers to
the domestic cohabitation of two unmarried people. Live-in relationships are
increasingly prevalent among couples. However, one could argue that the
incidence is higher in metropolitan areas and first-tier cities, especially
among upwardly mobile young people.
Couples often entered live-in relationships
to test their compatibility before committing to marriage. It allows them to
better understand each other and make informed decisions about serious
commitments such as marriage.
Live-in relationships allow separation without state intervention, which is
especially important in countries like India where divorce is frowned upon and
Premarital sex, on the other hand, is frowned upon in Indian society. As a
result, couples living together before marriage are often considered culturally
inappropriate, unethical, and contrary to societal standards. As a result, while
some have publicly embraced the idea of live-in relationships, they still face
social resistance based on traditional attitudes.
Classification of Live in in India
Living relationships can roughly be divided into three basic groups. This
categorization helps in determining whether these categories fall within the
broad scope of the term 'relationship in the nature of marriage'.
Continuing with the concept of 'relationship in the nature of marriage', three
scenarios challenge the phrase. The first option is the domestic cohabitation of
two unmarried heterosexuals. Second, adulterous live-in relationships. Finally,
there are domestic relationships between same-sex couples.
The first type of live-in relationship is the most popular, widespread and
recognized, in which two unmarried heterosexuals intentionally live. However,
most of the public hostility and legal concerns come from the second and third
A live-in relationship is not a Crime
The Supreme Court in its various judgments has said that if a man and a woman
live as husband and wife in a long-term relationship and even have children, the
judiciary will presume that the two were married and would be subject to the
same laws. them and their relationship.
The concept of live-in relationship was
recognized in Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan
 By the Allahabad High Court where
a bench comprising Justice M. Katju and Justice R.B. Misra observed that. "In
our opinion, a man and a woman, even without marriage, can live together if they
This may be considered immoral by society, but it is not illegal. There is
a difference between law and morality." Then in S, Khushboo v. Kanniammal & anr
the Supreme Court observed that cohabitation between two adults without
formal marriage cannot be construed as an offence. It further adds that there
was no law prohibiting live-in relationships or premarital sex.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to life and
personal liberty as a fundamental right. In Ramdev Food Products (P) Ltd. v.
Arvindbhai Rambhai Patel the court observed that two people who are in a
live-in relationship without formal marriage are not perpetrators of crime.
Therefore, live-in relationships are legal in India.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) of 2005 was probably
the first legislature to recognize live-in relationships by giving rights and
protections to those women who are not legally married but live with a man under
the same roof in a relationship that is like a marriage but not a marriage, plus
a wife, though not equivalent to a wife (Auroshree, 2019).
Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act 2005 defines:
A domestic relationship means a relationship between two persons who at any time
live or have lived together in the same household, if they are related by
consanguinity, marriage or a relationship of the nature of marriage, adoption or
are members of the family. live together as a joint family
Residence is not categorically defined in the law, but interpretation is left to
the courts. The Court interprets the term "marital relationship" on the basis of
the above provision. At present, the provisions of PWDVA verify individuals who
are in live-in relationships and provide women with some basic rights to protect
against the abuse of fraudulent marriage, bigamous relationships and so on.
In the case of Indra Sarma v. VKV Sarma
(2013) SC listed rules for the
classification of live-in relationship in nature of marriage.
The time period of the relationship
In Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act uses the phrase "at any time" to
indicate a considerable period of time for the establishment and maintenance of
such a relationship, which may vary from situation to situation depending on the
The term "shared household" has been specified in Section 2(s) of the Domestic
Violence Act and therefore requires no further explanation.
Provision of funds
Financially support each other or either of them, have shared bank accounts,
acquire real estate in joint or female name, long-term financing in companies,
shares in joint ownership to create a strong connection. be the leading factor.
Intentions and conduct of the parties
The common goal of the partners towards their relationship, such as their
individual duties and obligations, essentially defines the nature of that
Delegating responsibility, especially to women, for household management and
housework is evidence of a marriage-like relationship.
Hanging out in society and interacting with friends, relatives and others as if
it were a real married couple is a significant situation to maintain a
relationship with the nature of marriage.
Legal status and property rights of children born from a live-in relationship
- Legal Status:
The Supreme Court in Tulsa v. Durghatiya" ruled that a child born out of such
a relationship would no longer be considered an illegitimate child. A notable
prerequisite for the same is that the parents must have lived under the same
roof and lived together for a significant period of time which proves their
sincerity towards the relationship.
S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan was the first case to uphold the
legitimacy of children born out of a live-in relationship. The Supreme Court
held that "if a man and a woman live under the same roof and have lived together
for several years, there will be a presumption under Section 114 of the Evidence
Act that they live as husband and wife and the children born to them shall not
In addition, the Court also interpreted Article 39(f) of the
Constitution of India, which directs its policy to ensure that children are
given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in
conditions of freedom and dignity, and that children and youth are protected
from exploitation and moral and material abandonment.
- Ownership Rights:
The Supreme Court in Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun approved the
inheritance of four children born out of a live-in relationship by holding them
as legal heirs. The court therefore ensured that inheritance could not be denied
to any child born out of a permanent relationship of significant duration.
In the case of Bharatha Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan, the Supreme Court
also gave legitimacy to a child born of a live-in relationship in the eyes of
the law and held that he could be allowed to inherit the property of his
The Supreme Court has held that a child born of live-in parents may be allowed
to inherit the property of the parents, if any, but has no right to the co-parcenary
property of the Hindu ancestors.
The Malimath Committee, i.e. Reforms of the Criminal Justice System, was
established in November 2000, submitted a report in 2003 after making several
recommendations for crimes against women
One of the important proposed recommendations was the modification of Section
125 of the Criminal Code of the Code (hereafter referred to as CPC), which is
related to the maintenance rights of a neglected and dependent wife, children
and parents (Anuja Agrawal 2012).
The Committee also sought to expand the definition of wife under Section 125 CPC
to include a woman who has lived with a male relative by wife under the same
roof for a reasonable period of time. However, the above criteria are necessary
for all women who want to avail PWDVA which consist; correct age, mutual and
independent consent, significant period and social status.
Undesirable conditions are if they live for a week, a month, a couple of months,
one night, many relationships at once, only for sexual desire that does not show
sincerity in the relationship.
In Chanmuniya v. Chanmuniya Kumar Singh Kushwaha
, the Supreme Court
set aside the judgment of the High Court which held that the petitioner's wife
was not entitled to maintenance on the ground that only a legally married woman
can claim maintenance under Section 125 CPC and awarded maintenance to the wife
(appellant), which stated that the provisions of Section 125 of the Civil Code
must be read in the light of Section 26 of the PWDVA, 2005, the Supreme Court
held that women in live-in relationships are equally entitled to all the
entitlements and reliefs available to them. legally married wife.
Similarly, in Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State of Maharashtra
another, the Supreme Court observed that a woman in a live-in relationship can
also claim maintenance under Section 125 CPC, it is not necessary to strictly
establish marriage to claim maintenance under Section 125 of Cr.P.C.
Although in Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma
 double judge Supreme Court
forming K.S.P. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose, JJ. ruled that "when a
woman is aware of the fact that a man with whom she is in a permanent
relationship and who already has a legally wedded wife and two children is not
entitled to the various reliefs available to a legally married wife, as well as
those who enter into a relationship in the nature of marriage" under the
provisions of PWDVA, 2005.
However, again only in the same case, the Supreme Court held that denial of any
protection under the PWDVA, 2005 may be unfair to the victims. The Supreme
Court, therefore, emphasized the need to expand the ambit of Section 200 which
deals with "domestic relations in PWDVA, 2005, especially for dependents, poor,
illiterate along with their children.
Legal status of children born from a live-in relationship
The first time the Supreme Court ruled on the legitimacy of children born
outside a live-in relationship was in S.P.S. In Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan
the Supreme Court said, "If a man and a woman live under the same roof and have
lived together for several years, there will be a presumption under Section 114
of the Evidence Act that they are living as husband and wife. the children born
to them shall not be illegitimate."
The court further interpreted the status and
legislation to the extent that it shows compliance with Article 39(a). f) of the
Indian Constitution, which stipulates the obligation of the state to provide
children with adequate opportunities for their proper and further development.
protect their interest.
The Supreme Court in Tulsa v. Durghatiya
, dealing with a recent case
regarding the legitimacy of children from such relationships, ruled that a child
born from such a relationship would no longer be considered an illegitimate
child. An important prerequisite for the same should be that the parents must
live under the same roof and have lived together for a significant period of
time in order for society to recognize them as husband and wife and it should
not be a walk-in and walk-out relationship.
In another case of Bharatha Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan
Supreme Court held that a child born in a live-in relationship may be allowed to
inherit the property of the parents (if any) and therefore be given legitimacy
in the eyes of the law. We have seen that the Indian Judiciary, in the absence
of specific legislation, protects the rights of children by giving a wider
interpretation to the law so that no child is "bastardized" through no fault of
On 31/03/2011, a Special Bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising G.S.
Singhvi, Asok Kumar Ganguly observed in Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun that
irrespective of the relationship between the parents, the birth of a child from
such relationship must be considered independently. parents' relationship. It is
plain and clear as the sun that a child born of such a relationship is innocent
and entitled to all the rights and privileges enjoyed by children born of a
valid marriage. This is the gist of Article 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act,
1955, as amended.
The status of live-in relationships in other countries is much more relaxed and
progressive. In Canada, all live-in couples enjoy legal sanctity if they have
lived together for 12 months or have given birth or adopted a child. This gives
the relationship and its child immediate legal status.
But in India, there is a social stigma against an individualistic way of life
amid fears of high rates of adultery, women's vulnerability and uncertainty
about the future of children. The social fabric of our country seems to be
gradually changing over time, with society and media co-shaping each other. The
reciprocal impact of socio-economic and cultural changes makes the
unconventional visible and mildly acceptable.
This concept is now gradually being accepted by society as a substitute for
marriage, but as an increasingly viable alternative. Now it is legalized and
PWDVA 2005 protects some rights of women in this relationship. However, there
are many gray areas that need mainstream discourse. There is a need for a
separate law which should emphasize social, legal and secular aspects also to
resolve these complexities which still exist in relation to housing.
- Avantika Sarkar, (2015) " Law, Religion and Conjugal Ties: A Study of
'Live-in- Relationships' in Contemporary Indian Society", IJHRLR Vol. 1-
- Anuja Agrawal (2012), Law and 'Live-in' Relationships in India, Economic
& Political Weekly, vol xlviI no 39.
- Auroshree, "Live-In Relationship And Indian Judiciary", The SCC blog
Retrived on 22/07/20.
- Rajagopal, Krishanadas (2010). "Living together a part of Right to Life,
not an offence: SC." The Indian Express, < http://indianexpress.com/ >
retrieved on 20/07/20.
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