After being taboo in Indian society for many years, the idea of live-in relationships has gained popularity in the twenty-first century. The idea of live-in relationships has been a contentious topic with an increasing number of people voicing their support for it in today’s world. Until recently, and even now, many people believed that it did not align with Indian culture’s morals and values. Hence, in this article, we delve into the concept of Live-in Relationship and analyze its legal position in the eyes of the law and the associated rights of a woman in a live-in relationship.


A live-in relationship can be loosely defined as a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a setting that resembles a marriage, despite the term having no legal definition coded in any of our statutes. It is a situation in which two individuals choose to live together permanently or for an extended period of time in a close, passionate relationship without being bound by the legal obligations of a traditional marriage.


1. Right of Inheritance of Property after the death of her partner:

The Hon’ble Apex Court of India in deciding that couples living in a live-in relationship would be presumed to legally married, held that the woman in the said love-in relationship would be eligible to inherit the property after the death of her partner. This decision was given in the case of Dhannulal & Ors. vs. Ganeshram & Ors.4 wherein the court also upheld the legitimacy of children born out of the live-in relationships and their right to claim inheritance from the property of the parents. The court made it expressly clear that law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when man and woman have cohabited continuously for long time.

2. Right of Maintenance u/s 125 of CrPC:

The Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, headed by Dr. Justice V. S. Malimath, in its Report of March, 20035 strongly recommended 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. Though there has been no formal amendment made, the definition of wife can now be said to include a woman living in a live-in relationship with a man for a reasonably long period of time as and by way of judicial interpretations.

3. Right to Protection & Shared-Household under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005-

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 (“Domestic Violence Act”) provides an “efficacious remedy” for maintenance even if the victim is not a legally wedded wife and in fact, under the provisions of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 the victim i.e. the estranged wife or live-in partner would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely to a shared household also.

Even in the case of Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma7, the Hon’ble Supreme Court delved into the discussion of whether or not a “Live-in Relationship” would amount to a “Relationship in the Nature of Marriage” falling within the definition of “Domestic Relationship” under Section 2 (f) of Domestic Violence Act and whether the failure to maintain a woman involved in such a relationship amounts to “Domestic Violence” within Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act.

It is however, important to bear in mind that women in all live-in relationships are not entitled to the benefits as mentioned above but only women in those live-in relationships that qualify as relationship in the nature of marriage will be entitled to the same. Another point arising out of this is that only stable and reasonably long period of relationship between the couple is generally given protection under the ambit of Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

4. Right to Claim Legitimacy of Children-

It is a well, settled law in our country that the children born out of a live-in relationship, irrespective of subsistence of previous marriage of either of the partners or any other factor, will have the status of legitimate children. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of S.P.S. Balasubramanyam vs. Suruttayan8 for the first time ruled upon and upheld the legitimacy of children born out of a live-in relationship.

5. Right to Invoke Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code-

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides an effective remedy for a woman against dowry harassment. With the increasing trend of judicial precedents taking pro women stand for women involved in a live-in relationship, surprisingly in the case of Shivcharan Lal Verma & Ors. vs. State of Madhya Pradesh11 the Apex Court held that there must be a valid marital relationship between he accused and the victim otherwise the penal provisions of Section 498A will not be attracted.

Later on in 2009, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Koppisetti Subbharao vs State of A.P.12 went on to protect a woman in a live-in relationship from harassment for dowry. The Court while denying the contention of the man that Section 498A does not apply to him since he was not married to his live-in partner held that the nomenclature ‘dowry’ does not have any magical charm written over it. It is just a label given to a demand of money in relation to a marital relationship. The court also expressed that “there could be no impediment in law to liberally construe the words or expressions relating to the persons committing the offence so as to rope in not only those validly married, but also anyone who has undergone some or other form of marriage, and thereby assume for himself the position of husband to live, co-habitat and exercise authority as such husband over another woman”.

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