IS THERE ANY REAL RIGHTS IN LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP?
Written by – Sruthi Sadhasivam
WHAT EXACTLY IS LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP?
Live in relationship is a flexible companionship where both partners live in the same house by sharing equal responsibility physically, emotionally and financially without getting married based on religious norms or rules and choose not to obtain a marriage certificate as well. Live in relationships came into being as a response to the age-old traditional system of marriage. The emergence of live in relationship cases in India is the height of individual freedom and liberty that one could ask for. Nonetheless, it is still viewed with immense revulsion and disgust by majority of the Indian families. Live in relationships might have a lot of flexibility but at the same time it also involves some serious pitfalls.
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
Although Live in relationships are legitimate in India, there are no separate legislation that delves over it. To start with, the constitution does not state any legal definition of live in relationship. Even in judgements, live in relationship is expressed as “relationships in the nature of marriage” thereby diluting the already thin boundary existing between marriage and live in relationship.
HOW HAS THE RULINGS OF THE COURTS HELPED CONFER AN INDIRECT LEGAL STATUS TO LIVE IN RELATIONSHIPS?
Living together and live in relationship are two different things altogether. Live in relationship will be accorded a marital status based on the duration of living together and the set of personal responsibilities and obligations the couple owe to each other.
In various occasions courts have ruled that if a man and woman lived together for reasonable period then they will be termed as a married couple. There is no specific term set by the law to deem a couple in live in relationship as married.
The section 2(f) of protection of women against domestic violence act, 2005 protects the right to maintenance for women in live in relationships. The 1st case of live in relationship aroused in 1978 between a 50 year old couple, Justice Krishna Iyer ruled that the relationship was valid.
Further, in 2006, in Tulsa & Ors vs. Durghatiya & Ors case, the court upheld that child born out of live in relationship are not illegal as it visibly proves that parents have lived together for a long period of time in a household and can be deemed as husband and wife and therefore, the child will also enjoy the right to inherit property of their parents but not coparcenary property rights.
One of the significant case was D.Velusamy vs. D.Patchaiammal case (2010) where the court listed down some characteristics of relationship between partners and ruled that only those will be eligible to enjoy the rights under the domestic violence act. The prerequisites postulated by the court are that the partners in the relationship should be of marriageable age as prescribed by law, should have engaged in cohabitation voluntarily and must have portrayed themselves nearly as spouses to the outside world for a reasonable time period. The court also ruled that a relationship where a man treats a woman as a servant, provides her with material support and uses her only to satisfy his sexual needs cannot be considered as marriage under law.
In 2010, Khushboo vs Kanaimmal case, the court observed that although live in relationship might be perceived as immoral by society, it comes under the purview of right to life and thereby cannot be considered illegal.
Finally, section 494 and 495 of the IPC disallows live in relationship between a married woman and man and vice versa but children born out of the relationship although illegitimate, will have access to all the rights. On the 18th of June 2021, The Allahabad high court denied to provide security to a married woman in a live in relationship and imposed a 5000/- fine to the petitioner as it promoted illegality in the society.
In 2003, the Malimath Committee proposed to amend the marriage act to include women in live in relationship in the definition of wife, but the proposal is yet to be incorporated.
IS LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP A BOON OR A BANE?
Live in relationship is the best form of intimate union if it is between two sincere partners. Same sex couple have no marriage rights, thereby they are forced to have a live in relationship like arrangement. In this arrangement, there is no visible means of certainty in relationship as partners can decide to forfeit the relationship at any point of time. Moreover, the case laws do not clearly say how long a couple must live together to be considered married. Marriage is said to be a union of families while, live in relationship is all about the two consenting partners excluding familial or kinship ties. Thereby, the latter relationship is most of the time devoid of familial and kins support. There is always a grave danger of increasing cases of sexual assault and exploitation scenarios in live in relationship.
On a positive note, in addition to looking beyond the religion, caste, sect, race, economic status and personal background, live in relationship encourages partnership based on love and respect. While marriage is a patriarchal concept that justifies inequal status and roles accorded to women in the relationship, live in relationship is comradeship between partners who perceive each other as equals and have shared responsibilities towards each other.
This union of eroticism coupled with passionate amity is a problematic affair as, neither there is predictability in the relationship nor there is clear cut norms or laws governing the relationship. One aspect is true for both these forms of affinity, the inception of both the relationships are extremely joyful but how the relationship is carried henceforth is what that would decide whether the affectionate entanglement is successful or not.
In a nutshell, neither marriage nor live in relationship can be considered to be the best form of union and given the obscure laws governing the latter, it makes it even more precarious and dubious.