Presumption of Live-in Relationships

The author of this blog is  Kavya Arora, 3rd Year student at School of Law UPES Dehradun.

India is a country, which is slowly opening its doors for western ideas and lifestyles, one of which is the concept of Live-in relationships. A relationship of a man with women in legal parlance is legitimate if it is based on proper marriage and illegitimate if not as per Marriage Laws. Live-in a relationship is nothing more than a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together under the same roof in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. In everyday parlance, it is similar to cohabitation. The basic idea behind these types of relationships is that the interested couple wants to test their compatibility for each other before going for some commitment. It is usually because couples in live-in relationships see no benefit or value offered by the institution of marriage.
It is evident that the people who do not wish to have a marriage but still wish to live together with their partners prefer the option of life in relationships. Living together has been considered as a right to life guaranteed under Article 21.[1] However, the Supreme Court of India has held that by virtue of Section 114 of the Evidence Act that the Courts can raise a presumption, that the partners in life in a relationship are married to each other.
Presumption of Marriage
The concept of Presumption of Marriage has developed a lot over a period of time and can be seen through various judgments pronounced by the Hon’ble Courts. In Lata Singh v. State of UP & Another,[2] the Apex Court held that live-in relationship was permissible only between unmarried major persons of heterogeneous sex. If a man is married, he could be held guilty of adultery. Therefore, the court ruled that a live-in relationship could be a dangerous thing as it could lead to an offense of adultery, but not to marry.
In Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh,[3] those cases where a man, who lived with a woman for a long time and even though they may not have undergone legal necessities of a valid marriage as per the law, he should be made liable to pay the woman maintenance if he deserts her.
The rationale behind this being that a man should not be allowed to benefit from the legal loopholes by enjoying the advantages of a de facto marriage without undertaking the duties and obligations. Any other interpretation would lead the woman to suffer, which the provision of maintenance in Section 125 is meant to prevent. The Apex Court,[4] while adjudicating upon the issue propounded guidelines to indicate under what circumstances, a live-in relationship will fall within the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage” under Section 2(f) of the Act holding, arrived at in this matter can certainly, be considered as timeless ratio and worth including in this category.

Not Equivalent to a Marriage
Live-in relationships are often seen as a taboo and a sin in India. However, nowadays it is not very uncommon to find an unmarried couple in big metropolitan cities staying together as husband and wife. The statutes dealing with succession or marriage such as The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, The Special Marriage Act, 1954 or The Indian Succession Act, 1925 and so on does not recognize the concept of live-in relationships specifically. A child born out of a live-in relationship is not entitled to claim inheritance in ancestral coparcener property but is entitled only to claim a share in self-acquired properties if any.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 considers females who are not formally married, but are living with a male, in a relationship which is in the nature of marriage, also similar to wife, though not equivalent to wife. It provides for the protection, maintenance, and right of palimony to a live-in partner if she complaints. Indian judiciary is neither expressly encouraging nor prohibiting such kind of relationships. The judiciary as of now is only rendering justice in accordance with the law.
It is significant that the fundamental difference between the live-in-relationship and marriage should be recognized by the Courts and should be appreciated and considered by them, so that the presumptions related to marriage which has been raised in the past are not raised any anymore, as the same is in violation of the basic rights and settled position of law regarding the provisions which extend the scope of which they are raised. Even though, the Supreme Court has raised presumptions in favor of marriage under Section 114, the Court in D. Veluswamy v. D.Patchiamal,[5] has appreciated the difference between marriage and live-in-relationships and has therefore placed the live-in-relationship in the ambit of the term ‘relationship in nature of marriage’ and not marriage per se, under the Domestic Violence Act. This seems to be a better approach towards the new phenomenon that has entered the society in order to avoid the relationship of marriage.

However, as the law is segregate of social science it would not be correct to leave the live-in-relationship in the dark and not protect the rights and liabilities arising out of these relationships. It has to be noted that due to this a new branch in the tree of relationships has been created and it needs to be regulated as per the terms of the agreement between the parties, however the outer boundaries of the terms of the agreement should be defined by a comprehensive legislation, so that the concept of live-in-relationship is not made equivalent to marriage as the basic foundations of both these relationships are quite different in nature. The society is also advancing towards the concept of these relationships, therefore, an amendment in the IPC as well as different statues concerning the same is required to recognize these relationships as well as the crimes that will arise out of the formation of these relationships.

[1] S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Anr, (2010) 5 SCC 600.
[2] AIR 2006 SC 2522.
[3] AIR 2010 SC 6497.
[4] Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, AIR 2014 SC 309.
[5] (2012) 4 SCC 119.