In this everchanging world, all the technological advancements are happening at a very fast pace, that has revolutionized certain aspects of our lives. During the last few decades, globalization has affected certain aspects of our social lives too, like relationships, marriage, family structure, etc. Marriage is the socially and legally accepted form of relationship between couples. Two people of the opposite sex living together, without marrying is not a common thing in India and is considered to be taboo. At present, few people prefer to commit to a live-in relationship, where two people enter into a relationship and cohabitate for a significant amount of time, without getting married. This would mean that the couple could live together as a married couple without the hustle of actually getting married, and if at any point of time, of they want to get separated, they can do so without going through the process of divorce, but it is not sure of the women and the children will get the same rights as those in legally recognized marriage. But the live-in relationship is not recognized by the legislation and they are governed by the guidelines given by the judiciary. This article will look into the legal status of the women in a live-in relationship and the children born out of a live-in relationship.
The first case in which the Indian Supreme Court recognized a live-in relationship and said that it is a valid marriage was in the case of Badri Prasad v. Director of Consolidation. In this case, the Court gave validity to the live-in relationship which lasted for fifty years. It was held that a strong opinion would be there in favor of the wedlock when the partners have lived as husband and wife for a long time. further, the court held that the burden to rebut this opinion lies on the person who wants to remove the relationship of its legal origin. In the case of S. Khushboo vs. Kanniammal, the Supreme Court held that living together is not illegal according to law, despite it being considered to be immoral by the Indian society. The court went on to say that living together is a right to life and so it is not illegal.
In the judgment of Indra Sarma v. VKV Sarma, where the issue was of domestic violence in a live-in relationship, the court said that the live-in relationships will fall under the expression of ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ under section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act of 2005. In deciding this case, the court said the current relationship in question is not a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ because it does not have the essential characters of a marriage and it also doesn’t fall under the definition of domestic relationship under section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act of 2005. In this case, the appellant committee into a relationship with the respondent despite knowing that he is married with two children, who opposed this relationship right from the beginning. The court further said that, if they were to validate the relationship between the appellate and the respondent, it would amount to a huge injustice to the legally wedded wife and the children of the respondent. Finally, the court held that the Domestic Violence Act does not look into relationships of this nature.
In the case of Tulsa vs. Durghatiya, which was regarding the legal status of the children born from a live-in relationship, the court held that since the parent of the child has co-habited for a long time for the society to recognize them as a husband and wife, the child should be considered to be a legitimate child and further said that a child born out of a live-in relationship should have the property right.
Status of Women
- Domestic violence:
In a relationship, women can claim protection under the Domestic Violence Act of 2005. The status of a woman in a live-in relationship is not equivalent to a wife but it is close to it, provided the couple has lived together for a considerable amount of time and their relationship is in the nature of marriage. This was applied by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Ajay Bhardwaj v. Jyotsna, where the court awarded the woman of a live-in relationship a sum of Rs. 40 lakhs as maintenance and the court also referred to the 2003 report of the Malimath Committee, ‘Reforms in the Criminal Justice System’, which recommended that the term wife’ in section 125CrPC should be replaced with a woman, who is living with a man like a wife for a considerable amount of time.
The Supreme Court has also recognized dowry as violence committed against the woman in a live-in relationship. In the case of Koppisetti Subbarao Subramanian vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, the court rejects the defendant’s claim that a live-in relationship does not apply to Section 498A of IPC because he was not married to the woman.
Section 125 of the CrPC provides the legal right to maintenance to wives. The Malimath Committee Report and the 8th Law Commission recommended the inclusion of women in a live-in relationship within the purview of this section, under wives. The courts have also come up with the concept of palimony, which is similar to alimony but was give during the separation of unmarried couples. This concept was derived from the landmark judgment of the California Supreme Court in Marvin v. Marvin. The Supreme Court of India recognized this in the case of Velusamy v. Patchaiammal. In this case, the right to palimony was awarded in a live-in relationship as an equivalent to alimony.
Since there is no legislation recognizes live-in relationship, simply co-habiting does not give people the right to inherit from each other. Hence, in case of the death of one person in a live-in relationship, the other person has no right for their property, unless there is a will that states the contrary.
Status of Children
The Courts of India have time and again talked about the legitimacy of the child in a live-in relationship. Recently in the case of Xxxxxxxxxx vs State Of Kerala, the Kerala High Court referred to the Indian Constitution and said that every person has the right to live with dignity and on the basis of Article 14 and 21, the High Court said that, a child born in a live-in relationship will be considered as legitimate child and they would also have the property right, right to maintenance, and so on. Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and Section 26 of the Special Marriage Act, say that children born out of the void and voidable marriages were considered to be legitimate or deemed to be legitimate, respectively.
In the above-mentioned case of Tulsa v. Durghatiya, the Supreme Court granted the property right to a child born out of a live-in relationship. According to subsection (3) of Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and Section 26 of the Special Marriage Act, these children have the right to the inherent property of their parents. In the case of a Hindu Undivided Family, the child cannot be a coparcener and do not have rights over the family properties,
If a person wants to pursue a live-in relationship or get married is their own decision and the government should support it. The judiciary has supported it, and this is evident by all the judgments that the judiciary has given. As with the changing times, everything around us should also change to stay relevant. There is not yet single legislation that looks into the rights of the people involved in a live-in relationship. Hence, the legislation should look into the creation of the same.
This article is written by Santhiya V, pursuing BBA LLB (Hons.) at Alliance University.
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