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LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA - A LEGAL STUDY

 

Marriage is a sacred or contractual relationship in India. It is a union of two individuals as spouses and is recognized by livable continuity. More particularly says that marriage, as its legal consequences, entitles both the persons to cohabit; the children born out of a legal wedlock have legitimacy as legal heir; the wife is entitled to maintenance during and after the dissolution of marriage. It is a living arrangement. It is “an arrangement of living under which the couples which are unmarried live together to conduct a long-going relationship similarly as in marriage"

 

WHAT IS LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP

In Indian society, marriage is still considered as sacramental and eternal union and is a legally recognized union of a man and a woman, which thereto raises rights and obligations between them. The ritual of marriage is not merely a social contract but also establishes a bond of fate which binds a family together and lays down grounds for the future generation. The marriage aims at is that of spiritual union through the physical.

But with changing times, young generations in Indian society is slowly materialised for western concern and life styles and one of the most crucial episodes amongst it is the concept of live in relationship. Live in relationship form a characteristics feature and style of living of couples, especially those in metropolitan areas. With each passing day number of unmarried couples living together is scaling high. Co habitation or live in relationship in India is though not illegal but it is considered as socially or morally improper.

A living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together under the same roof in a long term relationship that resembles a marriage is known as a live- in-relationship. Live in relation which can also be referred to as cohabitation, in essence, is an arrangement whereby two people agree to live together on a permanent or long term basis in a sexually and/or emotionally intimate relationship. The Court said that a man and a woman can live together as per their wish even without getting married. It further said that it may be immoral for the society but is not illegal.

 There is no specific law on the subject of live in relationships in India. There is no legislation to define the rights and obligations of the parties to a live in relationships, the status of children born to such couples. In India, live in relationships have been a taboo right since the British raj. However, this is no longer entirely true amongst young couples in big cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, etc. However, one can not deny that maintaining such relationships in most of the country’s rural areas would be nothing but to invite loads of unwanted attention, or may be even trouble.

 Supreme Court of India observed that, if a man and a woman in love decide to live together as a couple, it is well within their right to life and by no means can be deemed a “criminal offence”. Supreme Court ruled that if an unmarried couple of opposite sexes live together for a prolonged period of time, they can be considered as man and wife. Also, their child, if any, would be legitimate. Supreme Court has held that long and continuous cohabitation of man and woman as a husband and wife may raise a rebuttable presumption of marriage. Facts can be used to rebut or weaken this presumption. The Courts have taken the view that where a man and a woman live together as husband and wife for a long term, the law will presume that they were legally married unless proved contrary. The concept of live in relationship was again recognized in the case of Tulsa v. Durghatiya. The Supreme court in the  D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal case made it clear that if the man has a live-in arrangement with a woman only for sexual reasons, neither partner can claim benefits of a legal marriage. In order to be eligible for palimony, a relationship must comply with certain conditions.

The conditions laid down are that the couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses; they must be of legal age to marry; they must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried; they must have voluntarily cohabited for a significant period of time.

The Supreme Court, in Indra Sarma case delivered on 26th November 2013 says: “Live-in or marriage like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country.

 The five kinds of live-in relationships the apex court identified in Indra Sarma case are as follows:

The first one is a domestic relationship between an adult male and an adult female, both unmarried. This is the most uncomplicated sort of relationship. 

The second one is a domestic relationship between a married man and an adult unmarried woman, entered knowingly. This is a problematic grey area. This one can lead to a conviction under Indian Penal Code for the crime of adultery.

The third one is a domestic relationship between an adult unmarried man and a married woman, entered knowingly. This is also a problematic grey area.

The fourth one is a domestic relationship between an unmarried adult female and a married male, entered unknowingly.

The fifth one is a domestic relationship between two gay or lesbian partners.

Legitimacy and inheritance rights of child

Legitimacy of children born out of wedlock presents a dilemma to the Indian Courts. Courts have been divided in this endeavor. Child out of a prolonged relationship is deemed legitimate.

Thus inheritance rights have been granted to children out of a live-in relationship, with respect to both ancestral and self-acquired property. [Parayankandiyal Eravath Kanapravan Kalliani Amma vs K.Devi 1996 SCC (4)76] Deeming a child legitimate for certain purposes and illegitimate for other has raised questions of equality in the Courts. Courts, in recent decisions have held that children out of wedlock will be legitimate (for example, Uday Gupta vs Aysha and Anr).

Maintenance and custodial rights of children

As there are no specific laws with respect to live-in relationships, Courts may decide these cases like marriage cases, if they are brought before them. Under personal laws, father is given the first right in case of a legitimate child, whereas mother is given the first preference in case of illegitimate child. However, this position has been overruled by the Supreme Court, and both, mother and father have been accorded equal rights over the child. Custody will be decided on the basis of facts and circumstances of each case. [Ms. Githa Hariharan & Anr vs Reserve Bank Of India & Anr on 17 February, 1999]

Maintenance of woman

Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State Of Maharashtra and Others

In Varsha Kapoor vs UOI & Ors., the Delhi High Court has held that female living in a relationship in the nature of marriage has right to file complaint not only against husband or male partner, but also against his relatives. In the case of Koppisetti Subbharao Subramaniam vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, the defendant used to harass his live in partner for dowry. In this case the Supreme Court held that the nomenclature ‘dowry’ does not have any magical charm written over it. It is just a label given to demand of money in relation to a marital relationship. The Court rejected the contention of the defendant that since he was not married to the complainant, Section 498A did not apply to him. Thus, the Supreme Court took one more step ahead and protected the woman in a live in relationship from harassment for dowry.

Bharata Matha & Ors. vs. R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors., the Supreme Court of India has held that child born out of a live-in relationship may be allowed to succeed inheritance in the property of the parents, if any, but doesn't have any claim as against Hindu ancestral coparcenary property.

Though the live in relations provide the individuals individual freedom but due to the insecurity it carries it with, there needs to be a law to curtail its disadvantages.

Official documents

In having joint accounts, insurance and visas, and possibly in visitation rights to a hospital, it could be tough if the couple is not legally married. International chess player Anuradha Beniwal was peacefully living in with her partner with no objections from family. (She did face veiled disapproval from some mothers who stopped sending their daughters to her for chess tuitions.) But when her partner decided to take up a job offer in London and she too was willing to move, they got married in a rush to avoid visa troubles.

In a landmark judgment on 13 April 2015 by the bench consisting of Justice MY Eqbal and Justice Amitava Roy, the Supreme Court ruled out that couples living in live-in-relationships will be presumed legally married.

The apex court also said that in case the man dies, then his partner would inherit his property. Since 2010, the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of women declaring that women should get the rights as that of a wife, in case of live-in couples.

Courts and grant of validity to the live-in-relationships

In a petition between Payal Katara and Superintendent of Nari Niketan, Agra, the Allahabad High Court on 4th March 2002 came up with a bold judgment by stating that anyone, man or woman, could live together even without getting married if they wished. A similar step was taken by the Apex Court on 15th January, 2008 when a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and P.Sathasivam leaned in favour of legitimising a live-in couple as they had lived together for 30 years.

 


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