Live in Relationships

According to Dictionary.com, “A living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage”.

According to B .Doddabatti in her Article on Live in Relationship in Indian Social context in “Law opined that: Speaking about the culture of India, it is well known that Majority of the Indians are conventional in the way they lead their life. Encouraging an unconventional concept like Live in relationship would certainly create a stir in the society leading to multiple disturbances. Also it harms the long cherished values of institutions like marriage and family. It may lead to situations where such practices may prove to be dangerous to the status and rights of women which is already being neglected from centuries. Most importantly young girls are in a danger of being misused by crooked men where the girls end up being victims of lust and ruin their lives on false beliefs”.

Normally live in relationship should be construed as “walk in and walk out” relationship according to an old Supreme court Judgment and also a recent Delhi High Court Judgment(Alok Kumar Vs. State) with no strings attached to each other unless as the hold each other out to the public as wife and husband- which in turn amounts to relationship in the nature of marriage in a long term relationship

In a recent Judgment of D Patchaiammal v. Velusamy the Supreme Court held that not all live in relationships will amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of the Prevention of women from domestic violence Act of 2005. The Women in such relationships are ‘not’ entitled for any maintenance unless the following conditions are fulfilled such as:

(1) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses,

(2) They must be of legal age to marry,

(3) They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage including being unmarried,
(4) they must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.

v Here again the questions arise, what is a significant period of time? What is the gauge to measure the proximity of a live in relationship with that of marriage? These conditions make it more difficult to a woman favoring the man.

With these there are some intrinsic advantages to married couples like marriage certificate issued by a competent legal authority such as the registrar of marriages is not only a mere legal document but it is the most important piece of document when it comes handy to all sort of legal issues. The live in couples don’t possess such legal documents & if they have to seek any legal help anytime regarding each other they won’t get any. The live in relationship only save their time & money, in case they fail to continue this relationship anytime in their life & they can simply walk out of each others life just without going through any legal formalities which is required in case of legally married couples, who have to go through the complete judicial process that is provided in the matrimonial law according to which they got married. In that case they get their legal rights of custody of child, settlement of their properties & place of residence too decided accordingly. The live in relationship doesn’t provide any legal right to claim all these, in case they give birth to a child; then the future of the child is also in jeopardy if the relationship doesn’t last long.
Gradually Live in relationships as is in the west are catching up in India too among highly educated and economically independent, urban upper middle class young people of heterosexual generation.

On 23rd march 2010 a three judge bench of Supreme court comprising the then Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Deepak Verma and B.S. Chauhan observed that a man and woman living together without marriage cannot be construed as an offence and held that living together is a Right to Life and Liberty as a Fundamental Right (Article 21).

The apex court said there was no law which prohibits live-in relationship or pre-marital sex. The apex court made this observation while reserving its judgment on a special leave petition filed by noted south Indian actor Kushboo seeking to quash 22 criminal cases filed against her after she allegedly endorsed pre-maritial sex in interviews to various magazines in 2005.

The Pertinent Question arises is what is live in relationship? The legal definition of live- in- relationship is “an arrangement of living under which couples which are unmarried live together to conduct a long-going relationship similarly as in marriage.” Many people imagine that living together before marriage resembles taking a car for a test drive. However, the definition and ambit of live in relationship is very unclear, there is no specific legislation in India on this subject, and the laws are in the form of court verdicts which varies from case to case.

But the concept of live in relationship is not new in our society. The only difference is that people have become open about it. Formally they were known as “maitray karars” in which people of two opposite sex would enter into a written agreement to be friends, live together and look after each other.

This is a general question which can strike at anybody mind that why couples who are in love with each other are leaning towards the live in relationship. A change is visible in our society from arranged marriages to love marriages and now to ‘live-in-relationships’. If an analysis is made of need of such relationships, avoiding responsibility would emerge as the prime reason. The lack of commitment, the disrespect of social bonds and the lack of tolerance in relationships have given rise to alternative to marriages.

Legal Status of live-in-relationship:

Though at global level as well, laws are not very clear on live in relationship, showing a common theme of aloofness and hesitation amongst countries to recognize such relationships. Nevertheless, as far as Indian scenario is concerned, there is dire a need to recognize such relationships in form of new legislation that will clearly dictate the ambit of live in relationship and rights and obligation of partners in such relationship.

Provisions with regard to live in relationships outside India:
Live in relationships in various countries are either recognized as it exists or it’s finding recognition via implied provision of different statues that protect property rights, housing rights. Many countries provide for live in relationship contracts in which partners can determine their legal rights.

The law introduced in 1999 in France makes provision for “civil solidarity pacts” allowing couples to enter into union and be entitled to same rights as married couples in such areas as income tax, inheritance, housing and social welfare. Article 147, of the Family Code, Philippines provides that when a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other ass husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them.

In the UK, live in couples does not enjoy legal sanction and status granted to married couple. There is no obligation on the partners to maintain each other. Partners do not have inheritance right over each other’s property unless named in their partner’s will.

The live in relation were conferred legal sanctity in Scotland in the year 2006 by Family Law (Scotland) Act. Laws in the U.S. as well do not provide the live in relationship couple with the rights as enjoyed by married couple. But such couples can enter into Cohabitation agreement containing stipulation with regard to their rights and liabilities.

But the laws of Canada, Australia, Ireland and China recognizes live in relationship.

In India:
At present in India no law deals with the concept of live in relationship. But even in the absence of a specific legislation on the subject, it is praiseworthy that our courts take an initiative and give certain recognition to such relationships. In earlier cases the court tended to presume marriage based on the number of years of cohabitation.

In the cases prior to independence like A Dinohamy v. WL Blahamy, (1928) 1 MLJ 388 (PC), the Privy Council laid down a broad rule postulating that “where a man and a woman are proved to have lived together as a man and wife, the law will presume, unless the contrary be clearly proved, that they were living together in consequences of a valid marriage.” The same principle was reiterated in the case of Mohabhat Ali v. Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, AIR1929 PC 135.

After independence the SC in Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation, AIR 1978 SC 1557, recognized live in relationship as a valid marriage.

Later in Patel and others case, (2006) 8 SCC 726, the SC observed that live in relationships are not illegal. The same proposition was upheld in the case of Tulsa v. Durghatiya, (2008) 4 SCC 520. The further sanction to live in relationship was granted by judgement of SC in 2010 in the Khushboo case, JT 2010 (4) SCC.

Hence, though more or less uniformity has been exuded in a positive direction by the court when it comes to live in relationships, but law does not cut a clear picture.

Protection of Rights Of Female Partner In Live In Relationships:

The rights of female partner in live in relationship tend to be secure, credited to the recent statutes and recommendation by the committees. Courts also display alacrity to protect the rights of female partner in such relationship as exhibited by judgments given in number of cases. The statues like Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 protects both in the categories of wife i.e. relationship by marriage and live in partner i.e. relationship in nature of marriage. However, as was discussed in D. Veluswami v. D. Patchaimmal, to get the benefits arising from “it is necessary that couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.

In June, 2008, The National Commission for Women recommended to Ministry of Women and Child Development made suggestion to include live in female partners for the right of maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC. This view was supported by the judgment in Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State of Maharashtra and others, Criminal Writ Petition No. 2218 of 2007 . This positive decision in favor of live in relationship was also supported by Maharashtra government in October, 2008 when it accepted the proposal made by Malimath Committee and Law Commission of India which suggested that if a woman has been in a live in relationship for considerably long time, she ought to enjoy the legal status of wife.

From above discussion, an important observation has been made that to recognize the right of female partners in live in relationship via some statues will have to be accompanied by changes in laws of succession, adoption, marriage.

Rights Of Children Born Out Of Live In Relationship:
The law relating to the right of child born out of live in relationship is still groping in the dark. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 gives the status of legitimacy to every child, irrespective of birth out of void or voidable marriage. But live in relationships do not come under the concept of marriage. So status of child born out of such relationship is still doubtful as such relations do not consider as a marriage under Hindu Marriage Act. Moreover, no other religion or law provide for the legality of child born out of such relationship.

12Another important matter that needs to be taken note is that, if the live in partners desire to get out of the relationship, then the future of the child comes into question as there is no provision in law which can secure the rights of such child. But recently SC in the case of Bharata Matha & Ors v. R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors. held that child born out of live in relationship may be allowed to succeed inheritance in the property of parents but doesn’t have claim against Hindu ancestral coparcenary property. But in spite of above decision there is an utmost need of provision in law which deals with the status and protection of right of child born out of such relationship.

In Payal Katara v. Superintendent of Nari Niketan it has been established that anyone, man or woman, could live together even without getting married if they wished. Further, the Apex court has reiterated that the children born out of such relations are legitimate and have property rights of their parents under Section 16 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 but not right to ancestral property.

All these developments are indeed welcoming and pragmatic in approach. India is a fast developing nation and growth of such relations are very normal. Live in relations provide the individuals with ample time before getting into marriage and to concentrate on career and personal growth. Freedom, respect to individuality, uncomplicated separations are few of the advantages of being in a Live in relationship.
Couples cohabit, rather than marry, for a variety of reasons. They may want to test their compatibility before they commit to a legal union. They may want to maintain their single status for financial reasons.

MY CONCLUSION: However, I welcome Live in Relationships for the a well educated and well employed hetero sexual urban middle class young who are 25-40 years old couples in Metropolitan areas who are strongly in love with each other in order to test their love, compatibility and tolerance towards each others differences and level of understanding. They should enter into a written agreement or contract clearly laying down each one of the couple’s rights to residence income tax, inheritance relating to property jointly or individually owned or acquired by them including residential property, children And their custody rights if young. If child’s paternity is disputed we’ve DNA finger printing tests as well to prove child paternity etc. Only people who’ve very much common with each other regarding their interests and hobbies and strong love  for each other must as a test drive must carefully incorporate in a written docoment all the above mutual rights and obligations prior to their live in a relationship of 2 , 3 years or 5 years and prior to entering into sacred matrimonial bond in order to see whether they are ready for the long durable and blissful matrimony with all the attendant responsibilities.

It is heartening to note that Our Indian courts are also along with MaliMath committee and Law commission have put their stamp of approval on such live in relationships in Metropolitan cities .

Live in Relationship between a Man and Woman is part of Right to life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India rendered on 23rd march 2010 by a three judge bench of Supreme court comprising the then Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Deepak Verma and B.S. Chauhan.

Live in Relationships are fast catching up in Metropolitan cities and I welcome this trend with open arms.They  offer freedom, flexibility, independence,  easy separation without the lengthy court room hassles  as is the  case of formal marriages. They are very much democratic and here to stay.

I’d request the Indian Parliament also to pass a suitable legislation for the benefit/protection of women partners in live in relationships as women are the worst sufferers and ultimate victims in many such relationships  regardless of education and economic empowerment.

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