By Mr. Vignesh Baskaran
The live-in relationship is defined as a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together under the same roof in a long term relationship that resembles a marriage. There is a harsh debate in our country regarding the recognition of a live-in relationship. Those who want the recognition for a live-in relationship argue that live-in relationships provide the individuals with more freedom which the institution of marriage cannot give. Those who oppose the recognition of live-in relationship argue that live-in relationship would bury the Indian culture and tradition. Beyond getting recognition, there is an urgent need in protecting the rights of the women in live-in relationship, and rights of the children born out of such a relationship should also be protected. The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides the women in live-in relationship with maintenance but none of the other laws are granting any such rights.
In India, there exists only one kind of relationship between an unrelated couple of male and female. The said relationship is ‘marriage’. But even the institution of marriage was alien to our society. The ancient society was nomadic. There was no institution called marriage. Later the nomadic society transformed into an agricultural society. During that time, they were unable to find paternity because the sex relationship remained unregulated. To bring this problem to an end, the humankind created the institution of marriage.
Though the term live-in relation is new in India, there can be traces of its existence from ancient times. Vedas and shastras mention about eight types of marriages. Among them,Gandharva is a kind of marriage where the lovers solemnize marriage without any rituals and customs, although there were no rituals involved, the responsibility and commitment among the spouse were similar to that of the other marriages. During the Mughal period, there was a practice of slavery. The Mughal rulers used to live with the slaves without any legal wedlock.
3.STATUS OF WOMAN IN LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP UNDER PERSONAL LAWS:
The institution of marriage in India is regulated by personal laws in India. None of those personal laws talks about live-in relationship. In Hindu law, section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act,1955 talks about the conditions for a valid marriage, and section 7 of the same act says that the marriage would be complete only when the ceremonies of marriages take place. Thus, Hindu law is completely silent about live-relationship. Under Muslim law, special marriage act,1954, the Indian Christian Marriage Act,1872, and the Paris Marriage and divorce Act,1936 also there is no mention about the live-in relationship.
4.STATUS OF WOMAN IN LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP UNDER VARIOUS LEGISLATIONS:
Domestic violence Act-2005:
Section 2(f) of Domestic Violence Act,2005 defines “domestic relationship” as a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship like marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family. The court has widely interpreted the expression ‘relationship like marriage’ giving recognition to live-in relationship as a marriage.
Criminal procedure code,1973:
Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure deals with the maintenance of wife, child, father, and mother. Section 125 of the criminal procedure code defines a wife as “ a woman who has been divorced by or has obtained a divorce from her husband and has not remarried.”
Justice Malimath committee and additionally the law commission of India prescribed the alteration of the meaning of “wife” under section 125 of Cr.P.C. But it was not implemented.
5.STAND OF JUDICIARY IN PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF THE WOMAN IN LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP:
The judiciary played a vital role in the recognition of live-in relationship as a legal institution, Justice M.Katju and Justice R.B.Misra stated, “Live-in relationship can be regarded as immoral by the society but it is not illegal”[i].
The three-judge bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G.Balakrishnan, Justice Deepak Varma and B.S.Chaudhan observed that there is no law prohibiting live-in relationships. The live-in relationship comes under the purview of the Right to Privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution[ii].
In D.Velusamy v. D.Patchaammal [iii],
The SC stated certain prerequisites for a live-in relationship to be considered as valid. The conditions set down are
· The couple must hold themselves out to society as being much the same as companions;
· They should be of legitimate age to get married;
· They should be generally fit the bill to go into a lawful marriage, including being unmarried;
· They should have deliberately lived together for a noteworthy timeframe.
The Indian judiciary has played a tremendous role in recognizing live-in relationship as a ‘Domestic relationship’ under section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act,2005. Though the judiciary has recognized and gave rights to those people, there is an urgent need for a legislation addressing this issue. Marital relations in India are regulated by personal laws. Still, all the personal laws are silent about the live-in relationship. The Malimath committee, law commission of India and the National Commission for women have recommended for the change in the definition of wife under section 125 of criminal procedure code. But the government is still reluctant about this issue. Nowadays, the number of live-in partners has increased and thus legislature has to pass legislation accordingly to address the issue. The new legislation should provide for right and obligation on part of the couples and thereby reducing the cases of atrocities faced by the female partners under such a relationship.
[i]Payal Sharma v. Superintendent NariNikethan& others, A.I.R. 2001 All. 254(India). [ii]S.Kushboo v. Kanniammal and Anr., (2010) 5 S.C.C. 600 (India). [iii]D.Velusamy v. D.Patchaammal ,A.I.R. 2011 S.C. 479 (India).