Live-in-relationships and the Indian Legal Perspective

Traditionally, the Indian society might have frowned upon live-in relationships. But the growing number of such couples indicates a degree of acceptance. Women, however, are still the losers.

‘Live-in-relationship’ is a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. There is no marriage between the parties, in the sense of solemnization of a marriage under any law[1]. It is a contract of living together which is renewed every day by the parties and can be terminated by either of the parties without the consent of the other party and one party can walk out at will at any time. Thus, people who  chose to have ‘live-in relationship’ cannot complain of infidelity or immorality.[2]

‘The idea of live-in-relationships may seem to be unique and appealing but in reality the problems likely to arise are many and challenging. The status of the women in such relationship is not that of a wife and lacks social approval or sanctity. Increase in litigation on matters pertaining to maintenance, legitimacy of children, inheritance etc is another area of great concern’.

Legal Status of Female Live-in-Partners and Judicial Approach

The partner of a live-in relationship was first time accorded protection by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which considers females who are not formally married, but are living with a male person in a relationship, which is in the nature of marriage, also akin to wife, though not equivalent to wife[3]. The Supreme Court in D. Veluswamy v. D. Patchaiammal[4] has opined that the Parliament has drawn a distinction between the relationship of marriage and the relationship in the nature of marriage, and has provided that in either case the person is entitled to benefits under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, 2003, made recommendation that the definition of the word ‘wife’ in Section 125 should be amended so as to include a woman who was living with the man as his wife for a reasonably long period, during the subsistence of the first marriage.[5]

In June, 2008, it was recommended by the National Commission for Women to the Ministry of Women and Child Development to include live-in female partners for the right of maintenance under Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The view was also supported by the judgment in Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State of Maharashtra and Others[6].

A bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and A.M. Sapre dismissed a petition by a man who claimed that since he was already married before entering into the live-in relationship; his partner could not claim the status of a wife to be legally entitled to maintenance under Hindu Marriage Act.[7]

All that we can observe is, that a live-in-relationship constitutes a distinct class from marriage. The question of legitimacy of child is also directly related to protection of women. On this point apex court in Madan Mohan Singh vs Rajni Kant[8] case said, “The courts have consistently held that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years.”

In the absence of legislative framework in relation to relevant subject matter people may get confused due to different approaches of courts. The attempt by judges to fill the vacuum in law sometimes leads to arbitrariness, uncertainty and non-uniform application of law.[9]

The need of the present hour is not to try bringing live-in relationships under the ambit of any existing law but to enact a new different law which would look into the matter of live-in separately and would grant rights and obligations on the part of the couples.

 

[1] Swarupa N. Dholam, Socio-Legal Dimensions of Live-In Relationship in India, MAHARASHTRA JUDICIAL ACADEMY, 2(July 25, 2015), http://mja.gov.in/Site/…/final%20article%20in%20both%20lanuage%20(1).pdf

[2] Alok Kumar  v. State and Another, Crl.M.C. No. 299/2009 (Order dated 09August,2010)

[3] See Section2(f) Domestic Violence Act 2005

 [4] D. Veluswamy v. D. Patchaiammal,  10 SCC, 469, 475(2010)

[5] Report of Justice Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS (August 21, 2003, 12:30 PM), http:// mha.nic.in/pdfs/criminal_justice_system.pdf, p.197

[6] Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State Of Maharashtra and Others, 3 Cri.LJ, 889, 892(Bom.2009)

[7]Amit Anand Choudhary, Supreme Court Upholds Maintenance for Live-in Partners, THE TIMES OF INDIA (Sept 3,2016, 5:29 PM), http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Supreme-Court-upholds-maintenance-for-live- in-partners/articleshow/47169351.cms

[8] Madan Mohan Singh vs Rajni Kant,  9 SCC, 209(2010)

[9]J. Venkatesan, Amend Law to Protect Women and Children in Live-In Relationships: Court, THE HINDU, (Sept.3, 2016, 5:27 PM), http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/amend-law-to-protect-women-and-children- in-live in-relationships-court/article5402879.ece

 

AUTHOR

Rashmi Pandey

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