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What is the legal status of live in relationships and whether any rights are available to persons under live-in relationship?

Marriage is considered a sacred relationship in India and by its legal consequence entitles both partners to cohabit.  The children born out of the marriage have legitimacy as a legal heir. Live-in relationships which are on a high nowadays in many metro cities is an arrangement wherein the couples who are unmarried live under one roof to have a long-going relationship like marriage. Here a man and woman do not get married but live together and this kind of relations has become an alternate to marriage in most of the metro cities of India.

Hindu marriage act does not recognise this kind of living together nor does any other law support it. No legislation has defined this word in any of the Acts and there is no rights and obligations of the parties who prefer to live-in relations and children born to these couples have no status. In one of the cases S. Khushboo vs. Kanniammal&Anr, (20 April, 2010) the Supreme Court held that this form of living is a right to life. When there is no proper law with regard to live in relations Courts have taken the view of a man and woman who live together as husband and wife.

In Badri Prasad vs. Deputy Director of Consolidation (1 August, 1978) Supreme Court recognised the live in relationship as valid marriage and gave legal validity to 50 years of live-in relationship of a couple. Supreme Court ruled if a women knew the marital status of a man and had live-in relation later she cannot sue him under Domestic Violence Act and it cannot be invoked against him under live-in relationship. In one case In PayalKatara v. Superintendent NariNiketanKandriVihar Agra Allahabad High Court said that a person who is 21 years of age has a right to go anywhere and can live with a man without getting married if the man and woman like. In another case Alok Kumar vs. State of Delhi, the Court held that live in relation is like walk in and walk out relationship and there are no strings attached to such relationships.  In another matter D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal Supreme Court has said it clearly that if the man lives-in with a woman only for sexual reasons then none of them can claim benefits that is available in a legal marriage.

Section 2(f) of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 explains about domestic relationship that is a relationship between 2 people who live together in the same house or under one roof. This includes the relationship “in the nature of marriage” along with “relationship of marriage”.

Supreme Court has asked Parliament to bring an amendment to Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act where laws in relation to women and children who are born from live-in relations are protected.

by Sushma Javare.