Aanchal Singla writes on the current scenario pertaining to live in relationships in India.
No statute in India defines ‘live-in relationship’ or Cohabitation per se. It can be described as an agreement where a man and a woman consent to live together without marriage. Sexual closeness is acknowledged, although it is not a mandatory factor. Certain people may like to be in a live in relationship due to less magnitude of responsibility and in light of the fact that relations are a matter of individual’s private domain which should not be influenced by society’s religious, cultural or political beliefs. It is an attempt to know beforehand if the partner is compatible for marriage or not.
Status Quo in India
‘Live in relationship’ may seem to be a western concept but a glimpse of this arrangement can be found in ancient India, in Vedas. Though in present day India, cohabitation is considered a social taboo as marriage in the Indian society is a sacred bond, and live-in relations modify the conditions of this bond. People prefer to live in denial; they cringe at the idea of live-ins. Couples face a lot of hurdles, like dealing with the family and convincing them. They confront their first obstacle when they set out to find a house to live in. But gradually and bit by bit, this concept is mushrooming in all the parts of our country – particularly in urban regions, unlike a couple of years ago, when society entirely defied such connections, even in the urban communities. This is due the broadening mindset of people.
Marriage and live in relationship differentiated
Marriage or matrimony is a socially accepted union or contract between a man and a woman that builds specific responsibility and legal obligations towards one another. Numerous laws have been framed to specify guidelines for the execution of this contract in different religions like The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; The Anand Marriage Act, 2012; Special Marriage Act, 1954; Hindu Succession Act, 1956; etc.
Whereas in live in relationships, there is no law entwining the partners and therefore both of the accomplices can leave the relationship, as and when they will to do so. There is no legal meaning of cohabitation; therefore legal status of these unions is unverified. No statute gives any specific rights or imposes legal obligations on the partners in live relationship. Therefore, the court has given clarifications regarding the idea of this relationship through different judgments.
Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation, 1978
This was the first case in which live in relationship was given validity by the Supreme Court of India. It interpreted 50 year live in relationship of a couple as a valid marriage.
Live-in relationship Definition: Indra Sarma v. V.K.V.Sarma, 2013
The preeminent court expressed, “Live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country. The decision to marry or not to marry or to have a heterosexual relationship is intensely personal. It was the task of the court to determine whether this live-in relationship fell under the definition of ‘domestic relationship’ under section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.” Thus the court had to decide whether this relationship accounted to a relationship in the ‘nature of marriage’. The judgment was conveyed by a bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice K S Radhakrishnan.
Inheritance issue in a live- in relationship:
A two-judge bench comprising of Justices MY Eqbal and Amitava Roy, said on account of couples living together, the relation would be considered marriage until demonstrated otherwise. The court passed the judgement in a property debate where relatives challenged that their grandfather, who was living with a lady for a long time after his spouse’s demise, was not legitimately married to the lady and she was not qualified to acquire the property after his death. Despite the lady being unable to give confirmation that she was lawfully married, the court ruled in her favour after the relatives conceded she was living with their grandfather for 20 years and she was allowed to acquire any property of the expired.
Domestic violence issue in a live- in relationship (nature of relationship): D.Velusamy v. D.Patchaiammal, 2010
In this case, the court decided certain pre-requirements for a live in relationship to be viewed like marriage. It held that the couple must present themselves to the society just like spouses for a significant period of time. For being a part of this union, both the partners should be of legitimate age to wed. It further cleared up that, if a male employs a female as worker, supports her monetarily, but uses her mostly for sexual purposes, such relationship would account to be a marriage. In the Velusamy case, the relationship was considered as a “relationship in the nature of marriage”. A woman under Domestic Violence Act can ask for compensation if there arises an occurrence of physical, mental, verbal or monetary misuse. The casualty has been given a few rights and insurances under this enactment. The woman is permitted custody of her kids and a privilege to claim pay for any damage brought on.
Live-in with children: SPS Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan
In this case the court proposed that if the partners were in live-in relationship over a long stretch of time, any child conceived out of this union will be viewed as legitimate.
Supreme Court is attempting to legitimize these unions like a marriage. For Example, Female partner has the privilege to sue under the Domestic Violence Act, kids conceived can acquire property, and women have the privilege to maintenance and/or property if they split, and so on. Nonetheless, there is no specific enactment which sets out the arrangements of this relation and gives legality to this idea. In some cases, it is even considered a part of Right to Life, still, there is a negative stigma attached by society to this concept.