Marriage in the Indian society has been considered as a sacred bond since the Vedic period. This concept of matrimony has continuously evolved with time.
With the ever-changing society and human psychology, the concept of marriage and relationship has also evolved.
The upcoming generations are considering relationships ever more liberally.
One such concept of live-in relationships is being adopted by numerous couples around the world.
The relationships where two people cohabit outside marriage without any legal obligations towards each other are known as live-in relationships. This is a relationship in the nature of marriage but unlike a marriage. This concept has slowly paved its way in the Indian scenario as well. However, such relationships are considered a taboo in the Indian society.
Although the legal status of live in relationships in India is unclear, the Supreme Court has ruled that any couple living together for a long term will be presumed as legally married unless proved otherwise. Thus, the aggrieved live-in partner can take shelter under the Domestic Violence Act 2005, which provides protection and maintenance and thereby grant the right of alimony.
Live-in relationship in simple terms can be explained as a relationship in the nature of marriage where both partners enjoy individual freedom and live in a shared household without being married to each other. It involves continuous cohabitation between the parties without any responsibilities or obligations towards one another. There is no law tying them together and consequently either of the partners can walk out of the relationship, as and when, they will to do so.
There is no legal definition of live in relationship and therefore the legal status of such type of relationships is also unsubstantiated. The Indian law does not provide any rights or obligations on the parties in live relationship. The status of the children born during such relationship is also unclear and therefore, the court has provided clarification to the concept of live in relationships through various judgments. The court has liberally professed that any man and women cohabiting for a long term will be presumed as legally married under the law unless proved contrary.
The right to maintenance in live in relationship is decided by the court in accordance with the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and the individual facts of the case.
Though the common man is still hesitant in accepting this kind of relationship, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, provides for the protection and maintenance thereby granting the right of alimony to an aggrieved live-in partner.
The recent judgment of the Supreme Court has illustrated five categories where the concept of live in relationships can be considered and proved in the court of law. Following are the categories:
Domestic relationship between an adult male and an adult female, both unmarried. It is the most uncomplicated sort of relationship.
Domestic relationship between a married man and an adult unmarried woman, entered knowingly.
Domestic relationship between an adult unmarried man and a married woman, entered knowingly. Such relationship can lead to a conviction under Indian Penal Code for the crime of adultery.
Domestic relationship between an unmarried adult female and a married male, entered unknowingly.
Domestic relationship between same sex partners ( gay or lesbian).
Thus, the legal status of live-in relationships in India has been evolved and determined by the Supreme Court in its various judgments. However, there is no separate legislation which lays down the provisions of live in relationships and provides legality to this concept. Though the concept of live-in relationship is considered immoral by the society, but is definitely not illegal in the eyes of the law. The Supreme Court states that living together is a right to life and therefore it cannot be held illegal.
The court has also tried to improve the conditions of the women and children borne out of live in relationships by defining their status under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 if the relationship is proved to be “relationship in the nature of marriage”
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