Is Live in Relationship Legal in India?


Posted On : August 17, 2022
Is Live in Relationship Legal in India?
Wish to know whether live in relationship is legal in India? Dive through the sea of landmark judgement on live in relationship which clarify the legal stand of various aspects related to living in a relationship in India.
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Live in relationship is legal in India or not? Either way, it has become a new norm in the land of culture and morals. Live-in relationships are a taboo in Indian society. The reason could be testing the compatibility between partners or to escape the tight clutches of marital laws in India. Two adults staying together could be a problem for the society, but it's not a problem with the laws unless someone is harmed by the act. Issues usually arise with the climax of such a romantic phase of life whereby the relationship has not attained the legal status of husband and wife. Then what is the law for live in relationship in India? The same has been explained on this page through various landmark judgement on live in relationship.

 

What is Live In Relationship? - India

When two people start living together in a common household as partners, it can be understood as a live-in relationship. Such a couple is not related by blood, marriage or adoption. This is a gradually accepted norm in modern India. The courts have time and again addressed the question ‘Is live in relationship legal in India?’. Since a man and a woman live together as a husband and wife without performing the required formalities, law also needs some concrete definition to deal with cases brought through family lawyers in this regard.

In case of D. Velusamy[1], the apex court expounded the test for a live-in relationship or a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ as follows:

a)     They must hold themselves out to the society like a spouse.

b)     They must have attained the legal age to marry.

c)     They must be qualified to enter into a legal marriage as per applicable laws, which includes unmarried status.

d)    They must be cohabiting voluntarily and holding themselves out to the world similar to married spouses for a significant period of time.

 

Live-In Relationship Rules: Whether live in relationship is legal in India?

In case of Indra Sarma[2], the hon’ble court has put forth guidelines to calculate whether a certain relationship between a man and woman can be regarded as a live-in relationship in contrast with marriage. Given below are the tests used for ascertaining the nature of a relationship:

1.     Duration - There is no concrete number of years or months which a couple may stay together. However, it has to be a considerable amount of time which may vary from case to case.

2.     Shared Household - When two people live in a domestic relationship irrespective of any title in such household.

3.     Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements - Having joint bank accounts, acquiring joint properties by the couple, making long-term investments together in order to support each other is a sign of serious relation.

4.     Domestic Arrangements - Entrusting domestic responsibility to the woman is the indication of a marriage-like relationship.

5.     Sexual Relationship - While explaining the nature of marriage-like relationship, the court elaborated sexual act among couples which is “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.”

6.     Children - Having children with a live-in spouse is a strong indicator of having a long-term relationship sharing the responsibility.

7.     Socialisation in Public - In order to hold a live-in relationship at par with marriage, the social behaviour of the couple before friends, family and society plays a major role.

8.     Intention and Conduct - Common intention of the parties regarding their roles and responsibilities determines the nature of such relation.


Landmark Judgment on Live in Relationship

Since the lawmakers are yet to address the cause, addressing whether live in relationship is legal in India brings the ball in the judiciary’s court. Given below are some famous case laws which lay the live-in relationship rules in India.

  • LEGALITY: There is a landmark judgement on live in relationship namely Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan 2001 (3) AWC 1778 : AIR 2001 All 254. In this case, the hon’ble Supreme Court gave a nod to ‘Whether live in relationship is legal in india?’ in affirmity. The court held that “...a man and woman can live together if they wish without marrying. This may be regarded as immoral by society but it is not illegal.….. Hence, merely because the petitioner lived with a woman voluntarily who was not his wife for 7 months, this in our opinion does not amount to the misconduct of bigamy, as there was no marriage. In the modern time, values have changed and we cannot import old ideas into modern times.” The judgment gave a concrete answer to the popular query ‘Is live-in relationship legal in India without divorce?’. Even in case of Lata Singh[3], the apex court observed that “A live-in relationship between two consenting adults of heterosexual sex does not amount to any offence even though it may be perceived as immoral.”
  • MAINTENANCE: In case of Chanmuniya[4], the Supreme Court held that although a couple might not have fulfilled the legal necessities of a valid marriage, if they are living as a man and wife for a considerably long time, the man has to be liable for maintenance as a husband. This judgment upheld the rights of female in live-in relationship.
  • LEGITIMACY OF CHILDREN: In case of Tulsa and Others vs Durghatiya and Others, Appeal (civil) 648 of 2002, the apex court used several judgments of the same court to support the statement that marriage is presumed when a couple is living together for years. Hence, the legitimacy of a child born out of such a relationship can not be questioned unless the fact of marriage is rebutted.
  • VISA FORMALITIES: Extension of Indian Visa requires compliance with certain guidelines. As per the requirements, a person of Indian origin, or their spouse/ children, etc. can be granted extension of Visa through application in appropriate offices. In case of Svetlana[5], the Delhi High Court allowed extension of Visa to Uzbekistan woman who was living in a relationship with an Indian national considering the guidelines. The relationship was allowed to be taken not literally as a marriage but in the nature of marriage.

 

Is Live in Relationship Legal in India without Divorce?

Adultery is no longer a crime as per the criminal laws of India. However, the same remains one among various divorce grounds. It is now understandable that although immoral, live-in relationships are not illegal in India. Hence, the question arises as to whether the same applies to live in relationship in India for married man? The status of a live-in relationship without divorce is explained below.

 

In the case of Smt. Premwati[6], the hon’ble Supreme Court has made it clear that two consenting adults may live together, but the sanctity of marriage pre-supposes divorce. A married woman living with another in an illicit relationship and seeking protection from her own husband may not be supported upholding the social fabric of this country.

 

In the landmark judgement on live in relationship, i.e. Smt. Aneeta[7], the apex court again rejected the contention of a married woman seeking police protection against her husband. The court made it clear that “We do not permit the parties to such illegality as tomorrow petitioners may convey that we have sanctified their illicit relations. Live-in-relationship cannot be at the cost of the social fabric of this Country. Directing the police to grant protection to them may indirectly give our assent to such illicit relations.” The court concluded with the words that “we make it clear that this Bench is not against live-in-relationship but is against illegal relations”.


Live-in Relationship Agreement

Modern problems require modern solutions. Even pre-nuptial agreements have become a trend in India, although the same is not acceptable in law. People usually get into live-in relationships to escape the laws binding a husband and wife together and the obligations that accompany a marriage. To safeguard their own interests, live-in relation agreement is the new pathway to decide what happens if the couple wishes to separate in future. Given below are the typical terms settled by couples living in a relationship:

  • Financial interests regarding shared/ joint property
  • Living costs
  • Responsibility against each other
  • Terms of relationship split
  • Mutual consent of otherwise for termination of live-in relation
  • Custodial rights of children born out of living in a relationship

 

Closure

By now, it is very clear what is the law for live in relationship in India. In short, live-in relation is taken as the relationship in the nature of marriage in the eyes of law. The rights of female in live-in relationship are saved through maintenance as a wife. Doubts like ‘Is live in relationship legal in India without divorce?’ have been clarified that the act may not bring a person in jail, but it can definitely bring the marriage to divorce. Children born out of a live-in relationship have got status of legitimacy through courts. A landmark judgement on live in relationship may well establish the legality, but it is the need of the hour that the legislature steps in and takes charge of making a law on live-in relationships. It will put an end to societal doubts and inconsistency related to live-in relationship rules.


[1] D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, SLP (Crl.) Nos.2273-2274/2010.

[2] Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, (2013) 15 SCC 755.

[3] Lata Singh Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2006) 5 SCC 475.

[4] Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kushwaha, (2011) 1 SCC 141.

[5] Svetlana Kazankina v. Union of India, (2015) 225 DLT 613.

[6] Smt. Premwati and another Vs. State of UP, Writ-C No. 11295 of 2021.

[7] Smt Aneeta And Another vs State Of U.P. And 3 Others, WRIT - C No. - 14443 of 2021.  

Written By:
Ridhi Khurana

Ridhi Khurana

Gurgaon

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