Marriage is considered a sacred sacrament in Hinduism. Marriage is considered a very sacred bond. It is said in the Vedas that the union of two bodies, two minds, two hearts, two breaths, and two souls is a sacred sacrament. That is, in Hinduism, through marriage, the union of the groom and bride, who have two bodies, two minds, two hearts, two breaths, and two souls, takes place.
Living together before entering into the bond of marriage has always been considered a sin or offense for Indian culture. The most important thing is that Hinduism gives priority to ‘one husband, one wife’ as the most sacred form of marriage. However, as people become mentally more evolved, the coming generations are ready to accept some unacceptable practices.
As time passes, changes continue to occur in Indian society. Many of these changes have been perceived as negative due to traditional norms. An example of such change is two people living in a live-in relationship. In many parts of Indian society, living together and establishing intimate relationships without marriage is still not considered acceptable. However, the country’s laws have adopted a liberal attitude towards live-in relationships. The concept of live-in relationships has been rejected by Indian society for a long time.
Defining the term “live-in relationship” is difficult. Often, couples choose to live in a live-in relationship to test their compatibility before agreeing to marriage. It allows them the freedom to understand each other better and consider decisions on serious responsibilities like marriage. Additionally, live-in relationships allow separation without state intervention and without undergoing any legal process.
The legality of live-in relationships is still unclear in the law. Live-in relationships fall under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This article protects the fundamental rights to life and personal liberty. It has been established through various Supreme Court decisions that living together without any hindrance is also included in the rights to life and personal liberty.
Eighteen years ago, the Supreme Court clarified in a judgment that ‘after attaining adulthood, a person is free to live with or marry anyone’. It was through this same judgment of the Supreme Court that live-in relationships gained legal recognition. The court also stated in this judgment, ‘While some people may view this as unethical, living in such relationships does not fall within the scope of a crime.’
The Supreme Court has placed live-in relationships within the realm of marriage. In the case of Indra Sarma vs. V. Sarma 2013, the Supreme Court made several remarks regarding live-in relationships, where the nature of marriage was also defined. Referring to Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act, the Supreme Court mentioned a significant period of time to establish and maintain such relationships, which could vary based on circumstances.
However, if a married person lives with someone without obtaining a divorce, it is considered illegal. However, the Punjab-Haryana High Court had ruled in one case, ‘Despite being married, living in a live-in relationship is not a crime, and it does not matter whether the man has initiated the divorce process or not.’
The legitimacy of children born out of live-in relationships was provided in the case of S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan (1993). According to the Supreme Court, if a man and a woman live together under one roof and cohabit for a period, then it will be presumed to be marriage under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Consequently, their children will be considered legitimate and eligible to inherit a part of the family property.
However, the inheritance rights of such children are limited only to the property of their parents. They do not have equal rights in the ancestral property of a Hindu undivided family and thus cannot claim a share in their parental ancestral property.
The government of Pushkar Singh Dhami of Uttarakhand has introduced a bill to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). It is named as the Uniform Civil Code, Uttarakhand 2024 Bill, and once it receives the Governor’s signature, it will become law. With this, Uttarakhand will become the first state to implement the Uniform Civil Code. After the law is enacted, it will be applicable to all people. However, the provisions of this law will not apply to the Scheduled Tribes (ST). Currently, the Uniform Civil Code is in effect in Goa, but it is inherited from Portuguese rule.
After the implementation of the new law, the process of forming and terminating live-in relationships will be regulated. It will be mandatory to register live-in relationships and inform the registrar even when ending them. The police station will also be notified. If one of the partners in a live-in relationship is below 21 years of age, then the parents will also be informed.
If a male partner abandons a female partner, she can approach the court for maintenance. Children born out of live-in relationships will be considered legitimate. This means that just like children born after marriage, the biological father will have to provide for their maintenance and grant them rights in property.
Within one month of forming a live-in relationship, it will be mandatory to register it, and there will be provisions for punishment for not registering or providing false information. Failure to register could result in imprisonment. If false information is provided at the time of registration or if incorrect information is found later, provisions for legal action have been made.
Live-in relationships, also known as cohabitation or actual relationships, refer to unmarried couples living together in a committed, long-term relationship, akin to marriage but without the legal formalities. The acceptance and legal recognition of live-in relationships vary across different countries and even within different regions of a country. In many Western countries, live-in relationships have become common and widely accepted. Over time, there have been improvements in the legal rights and protections of cohabiting couples. Some countries like the Netherlands and Sweden have even granted legal status to cohabitation with rights and responsibilities similar to marriage.