Live-in Relationships in India.
“Law takes its own time to articulate such social changes through a process of amendment. That is why in a changing society law cannot afford to remain static. If one looks at the history of development of Hindu Law, it will be clear that it was never static and has changed from time to time to meet the challenges of the changing social pattern in different time.” –Hon’ble Justice A.K.Ganguly & G.S. Singhvi in Revanasiddappa & other vs Mallikarjun & others
By Vardhan Deshmukh
The author is a first year student at MNLU Nagpur.
Law and culture are only two sides of the same coin. In present era, one cannot exist without the other, and law cannot stand to be static. The law has shaped civilization by its laws and regulations since the start of existence. Hindu law has developed through time in accordance to evolving socioeconomic trends, as seen by its past. In reaction to the fast-changing world, Indians are progressively opening the doors of global cultures to the notions of premarital sex and live-in relationships in the last few years.
India is recognized for its democratic administration and domestic framework. People, on the whole, have a strong attachment to their houses, and an ideal Indian’s top need is his family. Perceiving that a human has a marriage is the most important cognitive process. In our diverse country, marriage social ties are the biggest source of life. Regardless of conviction, individuals regard union as a fundamental advancement in their lives, and they agree that moral values and customs must be preserved for a stable community.
India is a country with a diverse set of principles, traditions, rituals, and beliefs that serve as essential legal sources. Marriage is a holy relationship with legal consequences and great social esteem. Marriage is an essential element of Indian culture and a social institution. Our country,
with its deep cultural origins, places a significant emphasis on morals and ethical reasoning. However, as time has passed, we have begun to adopt Western culture, which is vastly different from Indian culture. A portion of India appears to have adopted Modern lifestyle, namely, the live- in relationship.
Relationship between two people that live together i.e., cohabitation is a partnership in which two individuals agree to live together in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship for an extended time or permanently. The word is most commonly used to describe non-married couples. “An arrangement of living under which an unmarried couple lives together to conduct a long-term relationship similarly to marriage,” according to the legal definition.
Indeed, the present generation in India has experienced a tremendous shift in how they view their relationships. With society’s growing acceptance of live-in relationships, the stigma that once surrounded them has begun to dissipate. In the fields of freedom, privacy, professionalism, globalization, and education, this has happened throughout time. Furthermore, it is not an attempt to get to know your spouse better and assess compatibility in order to prevent divorce; rather, it is an effort to get to know your spouse better and determine compatibility in order to avoid divorce.
A live-in relationship is a long-term partnership, comparable to marriage, in which a couple lives under the same roof. It is currently being accepted as a marital option, principally in large urban areas. There is no legal definition of living apart, although there are often possibilities to stay together but not to marry. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, or any other law, prohibits this sort of networking existence. In this regard, there is no specific law in India governing the relationship situation. There are no rules that define the rights and responsibilities of couples in a relationship, or the status of young people who are destined to sue.
Many nations throughout the world have already embraced and legalized the notion. A man and a woman in love living together is part of the right to life, according to the Supreme Court, thus a live-in relationship is no longer illegal. In 2003, the Malimath Committee set the stage for groundbreaking proposals. It is important to note that it largely clarified the term “wife” and considered a woman in a live-in relationship to be a wife. Following that, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) of 2005, is considered as the first piece of legislation to offer legal legitimacy to non-marital relationships by including them in the definition of “relations in the home.”
Many attempts have been made to put it within the jurisdiction of certain laws, including as domestic abuse, maintenance, property, and a child’s legal status, in order to govern the complexities of this new social order. Even yet, it is always controversial on moral and sociological grounds, and it is still a stigma in India. Since the Vedic era, marriage has been seen as a sacred connection in Indigenous society. The concept of marriage has progressed over time. The notion of wedding and partnership has progressed in tandem with the advancement of society and human psychology. In terms of the notion and concept of cohabitation, the current generation is more progressive and flexible.
Though it appears to be a peaceful, pleasant, and easygoing friendship with no legal obligations, it actually involves a lot of problems, duties, and legal liabilities.
LEGALITY OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP IN INDIA
“With changing social norms of legitimacy in every society, including ours, what was illegitimate in the past may be legitimate today”
India is a country steeped in tradition, beliefs, rituals, and customs, making it challenging to mix western cultures. In the perspective of community, live-in relationships are unethical, yet they are lawful in the eyes of the law. Although our judicial framework lacks legislation, our judiciary is doing everything it can to overcome the space between the legitimacy and immorality of live-in relationships in India. The major motivation of the judicial system is to deliver fair treatment to individuals who are in a live-in relationship and who were before unprotected by any legislation. Our judicial system does not explicitly promote such ideas, but it does look ahead to bringing fairness to those who have been harmed in such relationships. Our judicial system, on the other hand, is only interested with any sort of travesty of truth. As a result, while passing judgement in such situations, our court considers both ethical structures and fundamental standards equally, ensuring that no rules are broken.
Couples had been residing jointly despite being officially wedded as early as the period of the privy council. If a man and woman coexist amicably as spouses in a partnership and the relationship ends in marriage, the law will prevail to keep the marriage lawful, but if the relationship ends in concubinage, the law may not be the same. There is a distinction to be made between immoral and criminal behavior; live-in relationships may be unethical in the views of civilization, but they cannot be unlawful in the legal sense or community. “A male and a female can stay jointly without being wedded if they wish,” Justice Katju and Justice RB Misra said in favor of live-in partnerships. There is a distinction to be made between legality and ethics.”
We should never judge a book by its cover in real live-in relationships, according to a popular saying. Relationships and companions have taken on a whole new meaning for today’s age. Live- in relationships allowed both parties to get to know one other extremely well because there were no legal restrictions and no strings to be connected. People today choose delayed weddings or no wedding policies because they are more financially and emotionally self-reliant. These partnerships offer a unique chance for couples to assess their suitability beforehand committing to marriage, allowing them to have a happy and secure life in the future.
Under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, a live-in relationship has constitutional validity. The right to live with a partner of one’s choosing is inextricably linked to the right to life and personal freedom. In one instance, the Supreme Court ruled that if two adults live together in a live-in relationship, it cannot be considered illegal or unconstitutional, and that heterosexual conduct between two adults will not be considered criminal, even if it is considered immoral in the eyes of society. There are numerous activities or actions that are not appropriate in our society, yet some
of them are neither unlawful nor sinful. A live-in relationship falls under the same category. The couples’ decision to marry or not marry after their relationship ends is a personal one.
The Supreme Court of India classified live-in relationships as “domestic relationships” protected by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (“DV Act”) for the first time in the case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal (2010). A live-in relationship is covered by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution’s right to life, according to the Court. The Court went on to clarify that live-in relationships are lawful and that the act of two adults living together in any scenario cannot be considered illegal or criminal.
In the instances of Badri Prasad v. Deputy Director Consolidation and SPS Balasubramanian v. Suruttayan , the law inferred that if a male and a woman have resided jointly for a long period, they are legally married until the contrary is proven. Although there is a strong presumption in favour of marriage, it can be refuted, and the individual who does so bears a heavy responsibility. Furthermore, children born from such a partnership would be eligible to an inheritance in the parents’ assets, but if the relation is just for sexual gratification, the couple would be denied the benefits of a legal marriage.
Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and Section 26 of the Special Marriage Act provide legality to children born out of invalid and voidable marriages. Nevertheless, under subsection (3) of the aforementioned sections of the Act, such children’s inheritance claims are limited to their parents’ assets. As an outcome, since their parents were not legally married when they were born, such kids do not have intestate succession privileges in the Hindu intact family’s property and are ineligible to inherit their ancestral property.
RESPONSE OF INDIAN JUDICIARY TO “LIVE- IN-RELATIONSHIP”
There is an assumption of marriage if a man and a woman stay together as husband and wife for a lengthy period of time’ u/S.114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. “Where a man and a woman are
proven to have lived together as man and wife, the law will infer, unless the opposite be clearly established, that they were living together in consequence of a lawful marriage, and not in a condition of concubinage,” the Privy Council stated in A. Dinohamy v. W.L.Blahamy. In the judgment of Mohabhat Ali v. Md. Ibrahim Khan, the Privy Council maintained that when a man and a woman cohabitate for a number of years, the law presumes that they are married and not in a condition of concubinage.
In the case Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation, the Supreme Court assumed that a man and a woman had been married for about 50 years. “The assumption was rebuttable,” the Supreme Court said in this instance, “but a great burden falls on the individual who attempts to deprive the connection of legal origin to prove that no marriage actually happened.” Legitimacy is favoured by the law, and a bastard is frowned upon.” Even while it may be tempting to infer a connection in the form of marriage, the Supreme Court in Gokal Chand v. Parvin Kumari stated that some unusual circumstances may require the S.C. to reject such a conclusion.
The Supreme Court in Koppisetti Subbharao Subramaniam v. State of A.P. extended the security against dowry under Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to include an individual who joins into a matrimonial connection under the guise of a pretended husband. The Supreme Court stated in the Patel and others case that the two adults are not criminal offenders since they are tied in a live-in relationship without a legal marriage. There has never been a law passed by the Indian Parliament that declares any live-in relationship to be unlawful.
Following 2010, the Supreme Court and High Courts addressed and clarified a number of problems in many rulings on the legitimacy of live-in relationships. In Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr. on April 28, 2010, a Supreme Court of India Special Bench comprising of K.G. Balakrishnan, Deepak Verma, and B.S. Chauhan raised the issue “If two individuals, man, and woman, desire to live together, who can oppose them?” What crime are they doing in this situation? This occurs as a result of people’s cultural interactions.” The court stated in this regard that there is no law in the
nation prohibiting premarital sex. The Supreme Court issued this remark in response to the prosecution’s claim that the actress Khushboo encouraged pre-marital sex, which has a negative impact on society’s moral fibre.
The Supreme Court ruled that living-in-relationship is lawful. Staying together is an ingredient of the right to life under Article.21 of the Indian Constitution, according to the court, and is not a “criminal violation.”
STATUS OF “LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS” IN CURRENT TIMES
India is well-known for its democratic government and familial structure. People are often highly connected to their families, and every typical Indian’s family is his first concern. Individuals see marriages as an essential part of their life, regardless of their religious beliefs, and feel that ethical norms and customs must be respected and maintained for a healthy community. Wedding is the initial social tie, followed by our kids, then the entire family, and finally everything in general.
A live-in-relationship is a living arrangement wherein an unmarried couple reside together under the same roof in a lengthy or continuous relationship in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate connection that mimics matrimony. It is a form of relationship in which a male and a female live jointly but do not marry. This connection has no value connected, and it does not establish any legal responsibilities between the individuals. It’s a type of living-together agreement that the partners update each day. It may be dissolved by any party without the agreement of the other, and either party can walk out at any moment. As a result, a live-in relationship is a walk-in/walk-out arrangement.
Conventional Indian communities have long frowned upon the notion of live-in relationships because, unlike weddings, they lack legal legitimacy and are seen to destabilise natural cohesion. Conversely, Indian courts have repeatedly said that morality and social norms have a place in society, but that nothing can be deemed more important than a person’s constitutionally granted freedom. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 has effectively acknowledged live-in partnerships while also providing women with the necessary protection.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (hereinafter PWDVA) of 2005 was possibly the first legislation to recognise live-in relationships by providing privileges and safeguards to females who are not legally married but reside with a male under the same roof in a relationship that is like getting married but not marriage, and also akin to wife but not equivalent to wife. The Act does not describe a live-in relationship in any way, leaving it up to the judge to determine. By consequence of the foregoing clause, the Court understands the phrase’ connection in the meaning of marriage.’ Currently, the provisions of the PWDVA recognise persons who are in live-in relationships and offer certain essential rights to women to safeguard them from deception, polygamous partnerships, and other types of harassment.
In India, a live-in relationship may be an unpopular and novel notion, but it is gaining popularity worldwide. Individuals are not willing to take on duties and commit to a full-time dedicated relationship in today’s society, which is partly developing as a result of globalisation’s fast influence. For the youth, a new attraction is a consensual connection between partners based on a greater knowledge of household occupancy, acceptance of pre-nuptial arrangements, general acceptance toward sexual preferences, and so on. Live-in relationships appeal to them as a superior way of living, similar to wedding but lacking the difficulties and anxieties; yet, it necessitates far more accountability and understanding of socio-legal issues.
As the nation steadily opens its doors to foreign cultures, beliefs, and behaviors, community and other organisations have united the court in promoting the formal recognition of the notion of live- in partnership. The Madhya Pradesh State Women’s Commission took a significant step forward by recommending that such unions be given legal status in order to protect the rights of tribal women in live-in partnerships. In addition, an NGO in Ahmedabad hosted a one-of-a-kind event to assist solitary elderly folks in finding companions.
The notion is progressively being recognised by society as a valid alternative to marriage rather than as a replacement for it. It is currently legal, and the Women’s Domestic Violence Act of 2005 safeguards some of the rights of women in these relationships. Nonetheless, there are a lot of grey areas that need to be discussed.
In Indian society, the “live-in relationship” is no longer a novelty. It has established itself as a permanent fixture. Couples in live-in relationships are increasing in number, but marriage institutions remain untouched. Marriage used to be considered a sine qua non of Indian society, but that is no longer the case. The development of live-in relationships appears to represent a threat to the stable foundation on which the concept of marriage has been established. Network homes have emerged as a result of the dissolution of the joint family structure. The expansion of women’s education has resulted in the development of an army of Indian women who are working and able to support their husbands, leading in the rise of dual-income households.
Families are disintegrated as a result of globalisation, and life companions are forced to live alone in various locations throughout the world. It’s possible that this cultural shift has fueled the increase of live-in relationships.
Whether you like it or not, the live-in-relationship phenomena is wreaking havoc on India’s societal foundation, as if it were a brazen threat to the concept of marriage. Every country’s legal system must evolve to keep up with the trends.
SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- PWDVA,2005 Section 2(f): The Author strongly supports the Supreme Court’s courageous approach in its judgments in the two instances, respectively 1. Velusamy vs.
D. Patchaiammal and 2. Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, which suggested to the Parliament of India that the meaning of domestic relationship in Sec.2 (f) of the PWDVA, 2005, be broadened to involve innocent people of unauthorized relationships who are poverty stricken and uneducated, as well as their kids who are born out of live-in relationships and have no origin of revenue. In accordance to the aforementioned suggestions, the author recommends that the Parliament enact new laws, as proposed by the Supreme Court in its directions in the two decisions stated above. Criminal Procedure Code,1973 (Section 125): The Author proposes that Section 125 of the Cr. P.C.’s definition of the word “wife” be changed to include a woman who has had a “relationship in the form of marriage” for a reasonable amount of time.
Hindu Marriage Act, (Section 16): The authors propose that a kid born out of a “relationship in the form of marriage” be eligible to a portion of its parents’ ancestral coparcenaries assets in addition to their self-acquired property. A kid born out of such a connection is as pure as a baby conceived out of a legitimate wedding, and is subject to all of the rights and benefits afforded to children born out of valid marriages. This is the essence of Section 16(3) of the revised Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which must be put into practice.
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