Live-in relationship laws in India?
By swatee Shukla
What is the live-in relationship? The expression ‘live-in-relationship’ simply means two people living together as spouses but without marriage or without intending any kind of permanent relationship between them. This kind of relationship emerged primarily out of convenience.
What are the laws that govern live-in relationships in India? Marriage as an institution plays a very important role in shaping this society, marriage is one of the most important institutions in society. the interest of society is well protected by keeping the foundation of this institution i.e. marriage strong. As we know marriage falls under the ambit of personal law and in India personal laws are governed by different religious communities. Since it is governed by religious communities, it becomes really difficult to bring change in these laws as per the need of changing world. Law has been playing a vital role in social change and in regulating the conduct of members of society. Personal laws are sensitive topics but still, to bring progress in society, from time to time, the apex court comes forward.
Due to modernization, India is observing the culture of live-in-relationship in some parts. Now, the problem is that none of the personal laws allows such kind of relationship where two persons live together, are sexually active, and without marriage. The main issues concerned to live in the relationship concerning the development of society are whether the Indian society is prepared enough to accept this kind of relationship and if we accept or reject it what can be the possible repercussions? Should new laws be made to regulate this kind of relationship? Live-in relationship is a major social taboo in India, especially in the middle and lower class of society. Live-in relationship is not a new concept in western countries, it is said that it's new for India, but if we look back in times there was a system of ‘Maitri karar’ practiced mostly in Gujrat that was very similar to a live-in relationship.
As of now, there is no statute related to live-in relationships in India. The Hindu marriage act, of 1955 confers the legitimacy of a child born out of ‘void’ and ‘voidable’ marriages and establishes their succession and property rights. The void marriage is not a marriage in the eyes of law. And in the popular sense void or voidable marriage is equated with live-in-relationship. Domestic violence act,2005 was the first legal action to recognize the existence of non-marital adult heterosexual relations regarding the protection of women living in a relationship in the nature of marriage.
Indian judiciary neither encourages nor prohibits such kind of relationship. Judiciary tried to serve justice keeping in mind social and constitutional mores. It has intervened in the matter only while deciding particular cases like in case of Payal katara v. Superintendent Nari Niketan Kandri Vihar Agra, the high court of Allahabad ruled out that a lady of about 21 years being a major, has the right to go anywhere and with anyone, man and women even without getting married can live together if they wish. The Supreme court has also held that a live-in-relationship is permissible only in the unmarried major person of heterogenous sex. Supreme court has also held that a couple living in a live-in relationship for a long time will be treated as a married couple and their child would be legitimate.
Though there isn’t any law existing dealing with live-in relationships, it has been made clear by various supreme court judgments that a live- in- relationship is legitimate and India is ready to accept a new kind of relationship.