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The legality of Live-in Relationships |Explained!

Introduction:

 Relationships in India are of many types. They can be classified into husband-wife relationships or in a live-in relationship. A marriage is considered to be a sacrament as it is a union of two individual souls and cannot be broken unless there is a reasonable excuse for the same.

The two spouses who marry each other are bound by marital duties and responsibilities. However, another kind is a little intriguing concept as it gives both spouses a lot of freedom.

They do not get married to each other but start living under the same roof to understand each other and their compatibility before taking the big step of marriage.  There is no responsibility or marital duty attached and anyone can just walk out of it any day.

Definition of Live-in Relationships as per law:

“Continuous cohabitation for a significant period, between partners who are not married to each other in a legally acceptable way and are sharing a common household.”

In simpler words, a live-in relationship is just an example of an arrangement between both parties. It can be dissolved at any moment as there are no strings attached. Therefore, it is also called a walk-in and walk-out relationship.

In a country like India, where marriage was always considered as a foundation between two persons, this has set up a new definition altogether.

Legal Recognition of Live-in Relationships:

In India, there is no specific legislation governing live-in relationships. There is no legislation that specifies the rights and obligations of parties in a live-in relationship, as well as the legal status of children born to these kinds of partners. Because there is no formal definition of a live-in commitment and so the legal status of such relationships is also unknown.

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However, the law is still uncertain about the legality of such partnerships, a few privileges have been established by interpreting and altering existing legislation to prohibit partners from misusing such connections. The following are some of the laws that are discussed:

Domestic Violence Act, 2005: 

This legislation is the first act to recognise live-in relationships by providing rights and protection to women who are not legally married but are residing with a man in a relationship that is in the spirit of marriage, also known as a wife but not the same as a wife.

The Couples who are in live-in relationships are now covered by the requirements of the Act and the essence of marriage and live-in relationship are on the same line. The Courts now assume that live-in partnerships are within the scope of the expression.

Criminal Procedure Code,1973

Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code was enacted to protect a wife, small children, or elderly parents from public indecency and poverty, and now it has been extended to live-in partners by judicial interpretation.

Essentially, it states that if a woman has been in a live-in relationship for a reasonable period, she has the same legal rights as a spouse and is entitled to maintenance under Section 125 CrPC. A presumption in favour of wedlock arises when partners live together as husband and wife.

Landmark Judgements:

Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation1978

The Supreme Court of India acknowledged a live-in relationship and regarded it as a lawful marriage for the first time in this case. In this instance, the court upheld the legality of a couple’s 50-year relationship.

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Justice Krishna Iyer ruled that where the couples have lived together as husband and wife for a long time, there is a strong presumption in favour of marriage.

Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan

 The Bench consisting of Justice M. Katju and Justice R.B. Misra observed that 

“In our opinion, a man and a woman, even without getting married, can live together if they wish to. This may be regarded as immoral by society, but it is not illegal. 

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court has so evolved and determined the legal status of live-in partnerships in India via its numerous rulings. However, there is no distinct statute that defines the terms of live-in partnerships and establishes their legality.

Though the concept of a live-in relationship is frowned upon by society, it is not illegal in the eyes of the law. Simultaneously, courts have frequently refused to take any concrete measures toward legalising the practice by authorising any forced agreements between unmarried couples, citing a potential clash with society’s overall goal.

It becomes clear that the Indian judiciary is unwilling to regard all types of living relationships as if they were marriages. Only stable and long-term periods are acceptable.

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