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KEYTAKEAWAYS

  • Live-in relationships are legal in India
  • Two consenting adults can stay in a live-in relationship and it doesn’t constitute to an offense even though it might be socially unacceptable.
  • The Top Court recently ordered the police to provide protection to a couple who faced threats from the family members.
  • The Fundamental Right to life and property under Article 21 of the couples should be protected.
  • The Supreme Court has passed many judgments regarding live-in relationships with a progressive approach.
  • A fixed law is needed to make clear the rights and commitments in live-in relationships.

INTRODUCTION

The concept of live-in relationship is not something that has been accepted with open arms in the Indian society. In our society, only those relationships are considered legitimate which have been solemnized by marriage. So far, there is no particular law to lay down the rights and commitments in a live-in relationship. However, live-in relationships are not illegal in India. The Top Court in its judgments has made it clear that live-in relations are not illegal and do not constitute to an offense. The Apex Court has held that two consenting adults can live together without marriage. Live-relationships are included under the ambit of the Domestic Violence Act. The only think that is left is society accepting the concept of live-in relationships. This Article focuses on the different landmark judgments passed by the Supreme Court regarding the Live-in Relationships in India and the provisions for the same. Keep reading to know more!

JUDGMENTS

GURWINDER SINGH & ANR V/S STATE OF PUNJAB AND ORS.

Date: 4th June 2021

Court: Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

Petitioner: Gurwinder Singh and Anr.

Respondent: State of Punjab and Ors.

Bench: Hon’ble Justices Navin Sinha and Ajay Rastogi

Facts

This is the most recent judgment passed by the Supreme Court concerning the concept of live-in relationship. The Petitioner couple had moved to the Supreme Court after they were denied protection by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the grounds that live-in relationships are socially and morally unacceptable. The Petitioners Gurwinder Singh and Gulzar kumara faced opposition from their families due to their inter-caste relationship. The faced threat and danger to life from the woman’s side of the family and hence moved to the Punjab and Haryana High Court to seek protection. However, the Court showed a regressive approach and denied protection to them. Aggrieved by this, the Couple moved to the Supreme Court where they were given justice.

Court’s Order

The Top Court observed that the petitioners had represented to the Superintendent of the Police; however their grievance was not acknowledged by the police. The Court held that since the matter concerns to the life and liberty of the couple, the Superintendent of police is required to act expeditiously according to the law and provide necessary protection to the couple in view of the apprehension and threats faced by them irrespective of the High Court’s Order. And hence the petition was disposed of.

LATA SINGH V/S STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH

Date: 7thJuly 2006

Court: Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

Petitioner: Lata Singh

Respondent: State of U.P. and Anr.

Bench: Hon’ble Justices Ashok Bhan&MarkandeyKatju

Facts

The Petitioner was a graduate living with her brother at LDA colony due to the sudden death of her parents. It was alleged that she left her brother’s house on 2nd November 2000 and married out of free will to BramhaNand Gupta and bore children out of the wedlock. It was an inter-caste marriage; the petitioner’s brothers were furious with the marriage. It was alleged that the petitioner’s brothers were threatening to kill her husband and her relatives. The relatives of the husband were falsely accused in a case because of which they spent many days behind the bars. The Petitioner tried to get help from different sources but finally approached the Rajasthan Women Commission Jaipur. Her statement was recorded and forwarded to the superintendent of police. A protest petition was filed against the final report of the police as they alleged her to be mentally unfit. But her medical reports stated that she was not suffering from any mental illness. The High Court had ordered nullification of the marriage. When the petitioner finally approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the Court decided to hear the plea of the petitioner and provided her police protection.

Courts Order

The Court granted police protection to the petitioner, her husband and his family stating that she has a right to choose her life partner. The Court in its judgment made it clear that no one should be found infringing the authorities, if that happens, strict action as per the law will be taken against them. The Court also directed proceedings against the petitioner’s brothers to be instituted by the concerned authorities. The criminal proceedings against the petitioner’s husband and his family were quashed. The Court also stated that there is not bar on inter-caste marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act and the Petitioner was free to live and to marry the person of her choice. This judgment made it clear that a woman has a right to choose her life-partner and marrying outside the caste is not a crime.

S. KHUSHBOO V/S KANNIAMMAL

Date: 28th April 2010

Court: Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

Appellant: S. Khushboo

Respondent: Kanniammal&Anr.

Bench: Hon’ble Justices Dr. B. S. Chauhan, K. G. Balkrishnan, and Deepak Verma.

Facts

The case deals with the remarks made by the Appellant relating to the increasing incidences of premarital sex especially in the context of live-in relationships in the magazine India Today and in another periodical DhinaThanthi. The issue raised in the case was whether the Appellant’s remarks amount to defamation under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. The Counsel for the Appellant put forward some really strong points about how the Appellant had a right to freedom of speech and expression and that the respondents weren’t the aggrieved persons in the case as per the meaning of ‘aggrieved persons’ given in the section 199(1) of the CrPC.

Judgment

The Court observed that the Appellant had only referred to the increasing incidences of premarital sex and live-in relationships. Thus it cannot be claimed that the statements made by the Appellant were in the nature of obscene communications. The Supreme Court quashed the complaints against the Appellant. The Top Court also held that live-in relationships come under the ambit of right to life under the Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It further stated that live-in relationships are permissible and are not illegal or unlawful. In this case, the Apex Court placed reliance on its earlier decision in Lata Singh v/s State of UP and held that live-in relationship is permissible only in unmarried major persons and is not a criminal offense under any law.

BADRI PRASAD V/S DIRECTOR OF CONSOLIDATION

Date: 1st August 2978

Court: Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

Petitioner: Badri Prasad

Respondent: Dy. Director of Consolidation and Ors.

Bench: Hon’ble Justices V. R. Krishnaiyer, D. A. Desai, and O. Chinnappa Reddy

Facts

This particular case is an important one. This case is the first case where the Supreme Court of India recognized the concept of live-in relationship. The case deals with a couple who stayed together for 50 years. An adventurist in this case challenged the factum of the marriage between the couples by filling a special leave petition that had been proved negative in the high court. The issued involved in this case were whether a couple living together for a long period of time can be considered as a valid marriage? And whether the burden of proof lies on the couple to prove that they have lived together for a reasonable time?

Judgment

The Supreme Court in this case rejected the special leave petition brought up by the petitioner. This was the first ever case where the Apex court of India had recognized the concept of live in relationship as a valid. The court held that a strong presumption arises in favour of the wedlock that the partners have lived together for a long spell as husband and wife. Section 114 of the evidence act states that the when a man and a woman stay together for several years as a couple, it is assumed and interpreted to be as a marriage. This particular presumption is rebuttable and the burden of proof lies on the person who tries to deprive the relationship of its legal origin.

INDRA SARMA V/S V. K. V. SARMA

Date: 26th November 2013

Court: Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

Appellant: IndraSarma

Respondent: V. K. V. Sarma

Bench: Hon’ble Justices K.S.P Radhakrishnan, and P.C Ghose

Facts

The Appellant and the Respondent used to work in close proximity and developed an intimate relation. The Respondent was already married and yet started living together with the Appellant despite of the opposition of his family and wife. The Appellant and the Respondent started a business together and earning together. However, the relationship did not work out and the Respondent moved to his business residence and started working with his son. This took away the Appellant’s right to work and earn a livelihood. The Appellant sought protection to herself and her relatives from the Respondent. The issues before the court were whether the non-maintenance of the Appellant in a broken live-in relationship, would amount to “domestic violence” within the definition of Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act? And if so, would it enable the appellant to seek one or more reliefs provided under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act?

Judgment

In this case, the Judges dealt with the matter of live-in relationship in detail and laid down conditions for the live-in relationships that can be given the status of marriage. The Court observed that when a woman is aware that a man already married and has children, is still in a relationship with him, she is not entitled to relief. But in this case, the Supreme Court felt that denial of any protection would amount to a great injustice to victims of such relationships. Therefore, the Supreme Court observed that there is a need to extend Section 2(f) of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 to include victims of live-in relationships who are poor, illiterate along with their children who are born out of such relationships.

LEGITIMACY OF CHILDREN BORN IN SUCH RELATIONSHIPS

In Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan, Tulsa v/s Durghatiya and Bharatha Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan, the Top Court held that a children born out of a live-in relationship are legitimate and may be allowed to inherit the property of the parents and therefore should be given legitimacy in the eyes of law.

PROTECTION OF WOMEN AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT

Live-in relationships are included under the ambit of the DV Act. The legislation provided protection to the partners in live-in relationship. So it is relief indeed for the couples in live-in relationship. It protects individual from abuse and has recognized live-in relationships through various judgments.

CONCLUSION

Live-in relationships are not considered to be an offense under law and there has been no provision so far which prohibits such kinds of relationship. The Supreme Court has been really progressive in its approach towards the live-in relationships. The Supreme Court opined that ‘Living together is a right to live’. All these judgments are a proof that the Apex Court is adapting to the changing times. However, it cannot be said about the High Courts. For instance, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has passed a few orders which consider live-in relationships are socially and morally unacceptable. The Court has denied protection to the couple because it would disturb the social fabrication of the society. The society too needs to adapt an unorthodox attitude towards the concept of live-in relationship. However, there needs to be a fixed law on the rights and commitments in live-in relationships. Otherwise, people can take undue advantage of their partners.


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