Live-in Relationship – What does the Indian Law say?

Last Updated at: Feb 20, 2020
Indian law on live-in relationships

The concept of a live-in relationship was a practice avoided by Indian society for a long time. Living together before tieing the knot is an offence or crime to the Indian culture previously. Most importantly, the Hindu Dharma prefers ‘One man, one wife’ as the most sacred form of matrimony. But as people start to evolve mentally, the successive generations are ready to accept a few refusing practices. For instance, let’s take the case of decriminalisation of homosexual cohabitation. The recent judgements, like the decriminalizing section 377 and 497 of the IPC, shows how the Indian laws have also evolved along with society.

One need not follow strict rules while in a live-in relationship. Statistics reveal that 80% of Indians now support the concept of live-in relationship and less than half per cent prefer living in this form of life. Dealing with family is one of the major hurdles that our Indian couples face. No wonder that most couples living in live-in relationships in India hide this fact from their family. In this blog, we will see what is live in relationship, what does live in relationship in India mean, how does the Indian law for live in relationship define it and also the legal provisions.

What is the meaning of live-in Relationship?

The idea of live in relationship evolves from the broadened mindset of the people who started to crave for a relationship with no-strings-attached. A living relationship couple are the ones who cohabit, with no expectations being the bottom line. However, there is no legal definition to describe the concept in Indian law. It is more of a westernised theory with very less relevance with the Indian tradition. So the Supreme Court, at various instances taken the liberty to elaborate on the concept through their judgements. It is different from a marriage. (Marriage or wedlock or matrimony, is a socially/ritually acknowledgeable union of a couple). Live in relationship partners don’t force on obligations.

When asked if a live-in relationship is good or bad, there is no proper explanation on if it is good or bad. It merely depends on the person and one’s personality on looking from a different perspective. People ought to believe that when living together, they can understand each other better and also for many other reasons, which cannot be denied.

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What does Indian law mean to say?

In a typical marriage, the partners are given certain rights and duties to be performed by either of them. There are several personal laws such as the Hindu laws, Muslim laws, Christian Laws, etc. that govern and protect the marital bond of a recognized couple. Live-in relationships, being an alien concept to the Indian legislature does not have any legal implications for the couples who live together without marriage involved in the relationship. Since living relationships also support pre-marital sex, there are high chances of a child being born. These children, unlike the successors born out of wedlock, do not have any rights over the inheritance. Besides this, society treats them as illegitimate children, which is unacceptable. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court cleared them of this ill-fated. And granted them the status of a legitimate child along with the right to property.

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Live-in relationships were legally considered void-ab-initio. But in a judgement in 1978, such relationships are valid for the first time because of the Supreme Court. If the requisites of a marriage such as mental soundness, the fulfilment of the legal age of marriage, consent, etc. are all satisfied, the couple is considered to be in a legal live-in relationship. The couple is also regarded as married if they live together for a considerably long period until proven otherwise.

The apex court has given five different types of living together in the excellent judgement of Indra Sarma Vs V.K.V.Sarma in 2013. It also stated that such relationships fall within the ambit of Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act,2005 that provides an insight into the said concept. In living relationships, the facets of the relationship might come to a conclusion, irrespective of any decision made by the couple.

Legal provisions for the protection of women in a live-in relationship:

Couples wanted to explore various types of living a life, nowadays. Live in relationship has become common since they know that the perception of understanding might vary. Though Indian couples widely accept the concept, the patriarchal mindset has partially not been eradicated from society. Women were taken for granted and mistreated by the male partner on various occasions. But did not have any hope for legal remedies in Indian laws. However, as cases of harassment and violence started increasing, the Supreme Court provided the victims with the relief, produced under the Domestic Violence Act. This act does not specify marriage but as a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’.

The right to maintenance is also a provision exclusively provided for married women in the existing personal laws. Still, as these laws do not govern anything less than a marriage, the women in a live-in relationship cannot, at any instance, ask for maintenance from the male partner. The courts later gave this a remedy by widening the scope of support under section 125. From the Code of Criminal Procedure, criminalising any man who does not provide proper maintenance to the woman is questionable.

Legal provisions for the protection of children born in a live-in relationship:

Mental trauma affects children who are born out of in such a relationship. There could be custody problems or maintenance problems as the child grows. The courts have declared such children to be legitimate. Additionally, they have the right to property, not just ancestral but also self-bought property. Since there is no special law for the maintenance of children born out of such relationships, the law decides to provide children with protection. Thus, evolved the section 125 of the CrPC. The section includes provision for all children who cannot claim remedies in their laws. The Indian law also does not allow the couples living together to adopt a child as per the terms laid down by CARA.

Therefore, though live-in relationships have become legally valid, it is still not legally binding on the partners. It could be a benefit as well as a disadvantage depending on the expectations of the couple. In a society that shamed premarital sex, accepting a practice like live-in is a big step forward. There is no specific personal laws are governing these relationships. However, the Indian Law/Supreme Court is trying to bring in a change into the nation. And also it is trying to widen the legal prospect relevant to this foreign concept. We have a widen idea of what live in relationship in India means.