Live-in Relationship in a Marriage Centric India
Indian society still considers marriage as a sacramental and eternal union. But with changing times, Indian society is slowly opening its doors for various western cultures and lifestyles and one of them is the concept of Life- In- Relationships.
Live- in- relationships form a characteristic feature and style of living of couples, especially in metropolitan areas. The number of unmarried partners living together is increasing with each passing. Although Cohabitation or living in relationships in India is illegal, it is considered socially and morally improper.
The legal definition of live- in- relationship is “an arrangement of living under which couples which are unmarried life together to conduct a long-going relationship similarly as in a marriage.”
Many people think that living together before marriage is important to understand the compatibility between them. This definition of living in a relationship is, however, very unclear. There is no specific legislation, at present, in India on this subject, and the laws are in the form of court verdicts which varies from case to case.
Even in the absence of specific legislation on the subject, it is praiseworthy that our courts take an initiative and give certain recognition to such relationships.
A Dinohamy v. WL Blahamy
In A Dinohamy v. WL Blahamy, the Privy Council laid down a broad rule postulating that “where a man and a woman are proved to have lived together as a man and wife, the law will presume, unless the contrary is proved, that they were living together in consequences of a valid marriage.”
The same principle was reiterated in the case of Mohabhat Ali v. Mohammad Ibrahim Khan.
Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation
The SC in Badri Prasad v. Dy. The Director of Consolidation recognized a live-in relationship as a valid marriage. In the case of Tulsa v. Durghatiya, the SC observed that living in relationships is not illegal.
The rights of the female partner in a live-in relationship tend to be secured and credited to the recent statutes and recommendations by the committees. The Statue like Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 protects both in the category of wife and female live-in partner.
Now, live in female partners have the right of maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC. This view was supported by the SC in Abhijit Bhikaseth Auto v. the State of Maharashtra.
There is an urgent need for specific legal provisions concerning live-in relationships and the rights of a child born out of such relationship, to demonstrate a clear cut picture keeping in mind the present Indian social context which stands strongly on the foundation of tradition and culture.
Live-in relationships should be granted legal status but only after a considerable period of cohabitation protecting the rights of partners and children born out of such relationships.