Updated: Jun 16
Being ever changing Indian Society, the influence from western culture have changed many Indian customs and practices. Out of many one is live-in relationships. Not get tied within the binds of marriage, live-in relationship is one of the alternatives to get the feeling of affinity and to be smitten with.
In feudal society sexual relationship between man and women outside marriage was totally taboo and regarded with disgust and horror, as depicted in Leo Tolstoy’s novel ‘Anna Karenina’, Gustave Flaubert’s novel ‘Madame Bovary’ and the novels of the great Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopdhyaya.
Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 states that "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”.
In Judgment titled Indra Sarma Vs V.K.V. Sarma of (2013) 15 SCC 755, the Live-in relationship is defined is interpreted under the ambit of the relevant para of the judgment is reproduced under
41. Section 2 (f) of the DV Act defines "domestic relationship" to mean, inter alia, a relationship between two persons who live or have lived together at such point of time in a shared household, through a relationship in the nature of marriage. The expression "relationship in the nature of marriage" is also described as defacto relationship, marriage - like relationship, cohabitation, couple relationship, meretricious relationship (now known as committed intimate relationship) etc. . . .
55. We may, on the basis of above discussion cull out some guidelines for testing under what circumstances, a live-in relationship will fall within the expression "relationship in the nature of marriage" under Section 2(f) of the DV Act. The guidelines, of course, are not exhaustive, but will definitely give some insight to such relationships.
(1) Duration of period of relationship
Section 2(f) of the DV Act has used the expression "at any point of time", which means a reasonable period of time to maintain and continue a relationship which may vary from case to case, depending upon the fact situation.
(2) Shared household
The expression has been defined under Section 2(s) of the DV Act and, hence, need no further elaboration.
(3) Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements
Supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so as to have a long standing relationship, may be a guiding factor.
(4) Domestic Arrangements
Entrusting the responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or upkeeping the house, etc. is an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.
(5) Sexual Relationship
Marriage like relationship refers to sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for emotional and intimate relationship, for procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring etc.
Having children is a strong indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage. Parties, therefore, intend to have a long standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting them is also a strong indication.
(7) Socialization in Public
Holding out to the public and socializing with friends, relations and others, as if they are husband and wife is a strong circumstance to hold the relationship is in the nature of marriage.
(8) Intention and conduct of the parties
Common intention of parties as to what their relationship is to be and to involve, and as to their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.
In the landmark case titled Dhannulal v. Ganeshram (2015) 12 SCC 301 Supreme Court has laid down that couples living in a live-in relationship will be presumed to be legally married.
In the modern era of web series ‘Love byte’ on SonyLiv app and the Nikhil Advani’s movie ‘Katti Batti’, where the story is revolving around the live-in relationship. The live-in relationship is quite common now days and society need to accept this as moving ahead from the feudal society of Leo Tolstoy.
However, in recent case in the month May 2021 Hon’ble Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed the protection petition of couple who was having danger to their lives from their family members. The petitioner couple intend to marry shortly still their petition for protection was dismissed on the basis that live-in relationship is morally and socially not acceptable.
In Second instance, another Hon’ble Bench of the Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed a protection petition on the grounds that one of the petitioners was barely 18 years old and granting protection against their relatives will disturb the entire social fabric of society.
But on 18.05.2021 another Hon’ble Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court disposed of the protection petition titled Pradeep Singh and another Vs. State of Haryana and others, of a couple living in a live-in relationship with the direction to the state to provide appropriate protection to petitioner as the one of the petitioners was having threat to life from family members. The Hon’ble bench stated that the Right of life and liberty enshrined therein the Constitution of India which is the Supreme Law of the land which includes the right of an individual to full development of his/her potential in accordance with his/her choice and wish and for such purpose, he/she is entitled to choose a partner of his/her choice. The Court also observed that through this petition the concept of live-in relationship is percolated into small towns and villages depicts the social acceptance of live-in relationship.
In the light of above-mentioned judgments of Hon’ble Courts every couple in live-in relation will be presumed to be married and protection should be given to every couple as per law. Being in a live-in relationship does not amount to any violation of law neither the individuals commits any crime against the society, still they face threat and danger from their own families and the protection for their lives is not being granted. It is the obligation of the State to protect its citizen from any kind of threat who have done nothing legally wrong. We as society need to understand that now everything is changing as per time and society needs to advance its thinking. Under the marriage both the man and woman are under obligation to live together and legal strings are been attached whereas in live-in relationships the individuals are free to live at the best.
India is a democratic country and conceptual adults have the right to freedom and life and right to reside wherever in the country or with any person with whom they want to.
Live-in relationship is a part of society and people with broad mind-set are accepting this as a way of life whereas, only handful people living with former century thinking who are not able to cope with today’s mind set are still on track of the against live-in relationships. However, Lives of the couples and their fundamental right of life guaranteed under Article 21 of constitution cannot be put into danger. It is the changing scenario of the society which needs to be welcomed as this change has the power to minimize the daily trivial and large matrimonial problems. However according to the author’s opinion there should be a proper legal statute for live-in relations which will enbolden the rights of persons who are in live-in relationship.