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Legality of Live in Relationships

  • Context (TH): The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad HC stated that a Muslim cannot claim rights in a live-in relationship when he or she has a living spouse.
  • The couple told the court they were adults in a live-in relationship and that they sought protection under Article 21 of the IC.

HC’s Observation

  • Islamic tenets do not permit live-in relationships during the subsisting marriage. The situation is different if two unmarried adults choose to live life as they please.
  • Constitutional rules might support the couple, even if it means challenging old customs; however, in this case, Article 21 of IC wouldn’t offer unlimited support for their rights.
  • The sanctity of marriage pre-supposes divorce.
  • There is no law specifically addressing live-in relationships, but the Indian judiciary has developed jurisprudence over the years through a series of judgements.
  • Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation (1978): The live-in relationships in India are legal but subject to caveats like age of marriage, consent and soundness of mind.
    • If a man and a woman have lived together for a long time, the legislation will assume they are legally married unless the reverse is proven.
    • A strong assumption favours marriage, but it is arbitrable, and the person contradicting it bears the burden of proof.
    • The legality of the live-in relationship stems from Article 19(a) and Article 21 of the IC.
  • Lata Singh v. State of UP (2006): SC ruled that two persons of the opposite sex living together are not doing anything illegal.
  • S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal and Anr (2010): Living together is a right to life protected by Article 21 of the IC, and thus, despite being considered immoral by society, it is not an offence under the law.
  • Velusamy vs. D Patchaimal (2010): The SC established legal criteria for live-in relationships:
    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.

Case Laws

  • Indra Sarma v. VKV Sharma (2013): The SC ruled that the woman partner in a live-in relationship is protected under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act, 2005.
  • Svetlana Kazankina v. Union of India (2015): Marriages and live-in relationships should not be regarded differently when granting a visa extension, citing that they are now a reality of life.
  • K.E. Krishnan & Another vs K.E. Valsan & Others (2022): The SC ruled that children born to partners in live-in relationships can be considered legitimate and are eligible for family succession.
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