Marriage as an institution is no longer sacrosanct.
The young generation is increasingly debating the importance and compulsion of ‘tying the knot’ viz. Companionship via Live-In relationship.
Couples now want to test their relationship and compatibility before the promise of ‘Till Death do us part’.
But, whether it is truly a solution or a problem disguised as one, remains the real question?
A huge chunk of our society still believes that Live-In is another name for ‘Monkey sex’ and has no sanctity both in the eyes of the society as well as the law.
With regards to the latter- they couldn’t be more wrong.
LEGAL POSITION OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP
Supreme Court has held that if a man and woman cohabiting under the same room for a number of years, there will be a presumption of marriage under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act.<1>
BUT HOW DOES ONE EQUATE LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP TO MARRIAGE?
The Supreme Court has given certain guidelines based on which a Live-In relationship can be treated akin to a marriage. For instance:
⦁ Pooling of resources and financial arrangements- supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long-term investments in the business, shares in separate and joint names etc.
⦁ Domestic arrangements where there is entrustment of responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or up-keeping the house are an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.
⦁ Sexual relationship and bearing children which mean a “marriage-like relationship refers to a sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for an emotional and intimate relationship, for the procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring etc.”
⦁ Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting the children.
IS LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP LEGAL?
A live-in relationship is Not illegal.
As per law a man and a woman can live together as per their wish even without getting married. It may be immoral for the society but is not illegal.<2>
The Supreme Court held that living together is a Right to Life as guaranteed under Article 21 of our constitution.
Live in relationship may be immoral in the eyes of the conservative Indian society but it is not “illegal” in the eyes of law.<3>
|Khushboo-the movie star|
All charges against the South Indian Actress Khushboo who had endorsed pre-marital sex and live-in relationships were dropped by the above decision.
DOES DOWRY ACT AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT 2005 APPLY TO LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIP?
The Supreme Court has held that a 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.<4>
In another case, the man used to harass his live-in partner for dowry.In this case, the Supreme Court held that the word ‘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 (Dowry Act ) did not apply to him.
Thus, the woman in a live-in relationship is protected from harassment for dowry.<5>
DO THE CHILDREN OF LIVE-IN COUPLES ENJOY INHERITANCE RIGHTS?
The child born out of a live-in relationship may be allowed to succeed inheritance in the property of the parents, if any.<6>
However, they do not have any claim as against Hindu ancestral property.
|What one makes of his/her relationship is strictly personal|
Whether couples treat Live-In relationship with the seriousness of a marriage has to be tested on the groungs mentioned above.
But in the eyes of the law, Live-In relationship is not a funny business and there are rights, duties, and liabilities attached to the same.
Says a lot about our progressive Judiciary. #Respect.
Advocate Sidharth Arora
Case Laws Referred:
1. S.P.S.Balasubramanyam v. Suruthaya (S.C.)
2. Payal Katara vs. Superintendent, Nari Niketan & Ors.(S.C.)
3. S. Khushboo vs. Kanniammal & Anr.(S.C)
4. Varsha Kapoor vs UOI & Ors. (Delhi High Court)
5. Koppisetti Subbharao Subramaniam vs. State of Andhra Pradesh(S.C)
6. Bharata Matha & Ors. vs. R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors.(S.C)