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Live-in relationship are not Criminalized: Delhi HC

  • Published
    23rd Sep, 2023

In a significant move, the Delhi High Court has observed that live-in relationships between two married partners are not criminalised and hence, Courts cannot impose their perception of morality on adults in such relationships.

About the Court’s observation:
  • As per the High courts’ view, Live-in relationship between two consenting married adults, who are married to different partners, has not been made criminal or legislated against.
  • The Court holds that the parties herein have the right to determine their own choices, life, and actions, but at the same time, should remain conscious of the repercussion it invites from their partners and its effect on their marriage.
  • It also observed that, any court of law cannot impose their own perception of morality on individuals who are adults and make free adult choices if such choices are not illegal or an offence under the present framework of law.

What is a Live-in Relationship?

  • Live-in relationship denotes a cohabitation arrangement where two individuals choose to live together in a domestic setting.
  • But in India, it lacks recognition under laws and thus remains undefined.

Live-in relationships are not recognized as a legal union under any law in India

Why there is a need for regulations?

  • The case is about the rape allegation and sexual harassment raised by a woman against her live-in partner with whom she has been cohabiting for last five years. The case prima facie looks to be of a relationship gone sour.
  • However, it also shows the vulnerable position of both the partners in case any of them demands justice where both the law and society are not very receptive of the live-in relationships.
  • Stakeholders involved:
    • Male live-in-partner
    • Female live-in-partner
    • Police officials
    • State Women Commission
    • Society at large

Supreme Court’s view:

  • Live-in Relationship as a Fundamental Right: The Supreme Court has ruled that any couple living together for a long time will be presumed as legally married unless proved otherwise.
  • So it is gradually being accepted especially amongst the young generation. As per the law, 'living together is not a crime, but it is part of the right to life'.

Societal Dilemmas:

  • Generally, live-in relationships are not favored in the Indian society.
  • It is yet not being fully accepted in our culture and this leads to social rejection of the people involved, if the live-in relation does not work, it gets all the more difficult to re-enter into established institution of marriage, especially in the case of women because of the rejection and stigma associated with it.

Instances for safeguarding women:

  • For the first time, the question of whether live-in relationship is a legal relationship came to the Supreme Court in the case of Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation.
  • In the present case the parties were living in a live in relationship for almost 50 years and the question before the court was whether their relationship be granted the same status which is granted to a married couple and the apex court’s decision was in favour of the couple and the apex court granted legal status to their 50 year relationship.
  • In the case of Indra Sarma v. VKV Sarma the Supreme Court held that if at any point any male who is not married lives with a women who is also not married and they also shared the same house then that will come under section 2(f) of Domestic Violence Act and if at any point of time domestic violence occurs then the aggrieved person can seek relief under the chapter IV of the Domestic Violence Act.

Related Laws:

  • India's legal framework primarily recognizes traditional marriages governed by personal laws and the Special Marriage Act, 1954, for interfaith or inter-caste marriages.
  • However, there are some legal provisions and court judgments that indirectly impact live-in relationships.
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: This law can be used by women in live-in relationships to seek protection from physical, emotional, or economic abuse. It allows for the filing of complaints and obtaining restraining orders against the abuser.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC): Section 497 of the IPC (Adultery) was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2018, which indirectly recognized the autonomy of married individuals in matters of relationships. It is essential to note that the IPC is a criminal law and not a law that explicitly recognizes or regulates live-in relationships.
  • Maintenance and Alimony: Courts in India have occasionally ruled in favor of providing maintenance or alimony to partners in long-term live-in relationships, considering the principles of equity and justice.
  • Protection of Children's Rights: In cases involving live-in couples with children, courts have ruled in favor of securing the rights and welfare of the child, including custody and financial support.
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