“Live-in-relationship” is a newly emerged concept in our society. The term ‘Live-in-relationship’ is neither defined in any statute /law nor in any dictionary. In general scenario, ‘Live-in-relationship’ means ‘a mutually consented arrangement between two adults of the opposite sex to live under one roof without the solemnization of any kind of ceremonies’. The concept of Live-In-Relationship has been recognized by Indian courts through various judgments.

The concept of Live-In-Relationship is not new. In India, we can trace this concept from the ancient time of Vedas and Shastras where it is known as ‘Maitri-Karar’. In this, male and female lives together with an agreement to take care of each other without proper solemnization of marriage.

Rights of Women in Live-In-Relationship:

          The Indian law enacted by the Parliament is silent about the status of the live-in relationships, so are the rights and obligations of the parties involved in such tiers. The man and woman engaged are such arrangements are not partners under the Indian Partnership Act, 1932. There is no specific statute that outlines their rights and obligations. The female partner, therefore, is not entitled to any of the rights which are available in a domestic relationship i.e. the right to maintenance, right to divorce, conjugal rights, right to inherit and succeed property, right to custody, and social rights.

Rights of Children born out of Live-In-Relationship:

The rights of a child born out of any arrangement can be subsequently classified into four categories i.e. legitimacy, maintenance, inheritance, and custody. These are the basic rights that are considered to be of intrinsic nature. The indulgence and acceptance of such a form of arrangements and further procreation leading to the birth of children poses the threat to the status of such children in society.

Since there is a lack of enactments in the subject of live-in relationships so is the case with the enactments for the issues born out of such tiers. The major issue that appears at the time of splitting up in a live-in arrangement is that of the custody of the issues born out of it. Section 6 of the Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act provides that the father is the natural guardian of the child, but clause (b) of the same Section defers to give the status of natural guardian to the father in case of an illegitimate child.

In Gaurav Nagpal Vs Sumedha  Nagpal, the Supreme Court observed that the term ‘welfare’ as enumerated under Section 13 of the Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act must be interpreted in the widest sense, the court must take into account the moral, ethic, and physical well being of the child and the court has parens patriae jurisdiction over such matters.

The legality of Live-in-Relationship in India:

The Indian judiciary has analyzed the concept of Live-In-Relationship through various cases.  In S.P.S. Balasubramanyum Vs Surruttayan, the court held that man and woman living together for a long period of time will be presumed husband and wife under Sec 114 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872. This is one of the benchmark judgments where the court legitimizes the status of children born out of Live-In-Relationship.

In another landmark judgment in the matter of S. Khusboo Vs Kanniammal and Anr (2010), the Supreme Court held that live-in-relationship comes under the ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. And the act of two grown-ups living together cannot be considered unlawful.

In the year 2011, through Chanmuniya v. Chanmuniya Kumar Singh Kushwaha(2011) the Supreme Court recognized the concept of the Live-In-Relationship and observed that women who are in live-in relationships are equally entitled to all the claims and reliefs which are available to a legally wedded wife.

In Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, Supreme Court laid down the directions to expand the scope of section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act 2005 in order to include the victims of live-in relationships and their offsprings.  The Supreme Court again recognize this right in 2018, in the matter of Lalit toppo vs. State of Jharkhand.

Conclusion &Suggestions     

The legal status of Live-In Relationships in India has been determined through various judgments passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Indian Judiciary has played a very crucial role in legalizing the concept of Live-In-Relationship. But in Indian society, the concept of Live-in-Relationship is still considered as a taboo and against the moral ethics present in our traditional values. However, there is no separate legislation that provides legality to the concept of Live-In-Relationship.  There should be some law or criteria to regulate this concept such as a fixed period of cohabitation to recognize the relation. A law to govern the rights of partners, and rights of children born out of such relationships and various other rights which are needed to protect both the partners.



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