The Delhi murder case of 26-year-old Shraddha Walkar has sent shock waves across the country. The way her live-in partner Aftab Poonawala killed and disposed of her body parts over months has terrified all of us. This gruesome murder where the accused cut his girlfriend into 35 pieces and stored it in the refrigerator has led to several “Love-Jihad” news debates.
On the other hand, another segment of society that considers live-in relationships immoral is blaming the victim for this inhumane crime. The orthodox society has found another reason to vilify live-in couples.
Were there any signs that Shraddha could have sensed about Aftab’s criminal intentions? During the course of the investigation, it is found that Shraddha had been a victim of domestic violence. These findings led to people questioning Shraddha for not choosing to leave Aftab. All women need to identify the signs of an abusive relationship and have to take the right step to practice their legal rights. So, this article is going to cover what women in abusive live-in relationships need to know about their rights. What are the rights of a woman in a live-in relationship in India?
Is Live In Relationships Legal In India?
In some of the cases, moral policing overshadows what the judiciary or legal system recognises. This overshadow effect is witnessed in most of the cases related to live-in relationships. Awareness is the key to bringing improvements in these matters and saving more lives.
The law has recognised live-in relationships as legitimate. Not just legitimate but there are legal provisions which entitle women in these relationships to various rights. These rights include right to protection against domestic violence, right to property, and the children born in these relationships are also entitled to receive their share in inherited property.
There are no specific laws related to live-in relationships in India but developments have been made over the years. The jurisprudence has been developed through various judgments which have legalised live-in relationships by providing protection to couples.
Supreme Court Judgments On Live-In Relationships
- In 1978, the Supreme Court in the case of Badri Prasad vs Dy. Director of Consolidation held, “A strong presumption arises in favour of wed-lock where the partners have lived together for a long spell as husband and wife. Although the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin. Law leans in favour of legitimacy and frowns upon bastardy.”
- In Lata Singh vs State of UP (2006), Supreme Court noted that a live-in relationship between two consenting adults does not amount to any offence, even though it may be perceived as immoral.
- The apex court reiterated the same in S Khushboo v Kannaimmal case and held that live-in relationships fall within the ambit of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- In Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma case, Supreme Court laid down the conditions for live-in relationships that can be given the status of marriage.
- In the case of Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant, the live-in relationship if continued for a reasonably long period of time, cannot be termed as a ‘walk-in and walk-out’ relationship and that there should be a presumption of marriage between the parties living in such live-in relationship.
5 Types Of Live-In Relationships Under Indra Sarma vs VKV Sarma
Supreme Court held that not all live-in relationships are in the nature of marriage. The apex court referred to certain situations, in which the relationship between an aggrieved person referred to in Section 2(a) and the respondent referred to in Section 2(q) of the DV Act, would or would not amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage, would be apposite. In the judgment, the bench mentioned those categories which are only illustrative in nature.
- Domestic relationship between an unmarried adult woman and an unmarried adult male: Relationship between an unmarried adult woman and an unmarried adult male who lived or, at any point of time lived together in a shared household, will fall under the definition of Section 2(f) of the DV Act and in case, there is any domestic violence, the same will fall under Section 3 of the DV Act and the aggrieved person can always seek reliefs provided under Chapter IV of the DV Act.
- Domestic relationship between an unmarried woman and a married adult male: Situations may arise when an unmarried adult woman knowingly enters into a relationship with a married adult male. The question is whether such a relationship is a relationship “in the nature of marriage” so as to fall within the definition of Section 2(f) of the DV Act.
- Domestic relationship between a married adult woman and an unmarried adult male: Situations may also arise where an adult married woman, knowingly enters into a relationship with an unmarried adult male, the question is whether such a relationship would fall within the expression relationship “in the nature of marriage”.
- Domestic relationship between an unmarried woman unknowingly enters into a relationship with a married adult male: An unmarried woman unknowingly enters into a relationship with a married adult male, may, in a given situation, fall within the definition of Section 2(f) of the DV Act and such a relationship may be a relationship in the “nature of marriage”, so far as the aggrieved person is concerned.
- Domestic relationship between same-sex partners (Gay and Lesbians): DV Act does not recognize such a relationship and that relationship cannot be termed as a relationship in the nature of marriage under the Act.
Legal Rights Of A Woman In Live-In Relationship In India
After knowing the legal status of live-in relationships in India, the next question that might come to your mind is do live-in couples have any rights.
Definitely, these couples have few rights or you can say the female partners in these relationships have certain rights. As the Indian judiciary recognises live-in relationships, it ensures protection to the parties in such cohabitations. These rights are provided in order to address the intimate partner violence which women have to go through during their time together. Taking into account their agonies, the Indian judiciary has made remarkable decisions in recent judgments. So what are the most important and basic legal rights of a female in a live-in relationship in India?
Right To Protection Against Domestic Violence In Live-In Relationships
Does the Protection of Domestic Violence Act cover live-in relationships Too?
Yes. Besides married women, Indian laws also protect women in live-in relationships under the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act of 2005.
Though there are no specific legislations related to the legal status of live-in relationship in India, the Indian judiciary have developed jurisprudence over the years through the abovementioned judgments. These series of judgments have helped in introducing several rights of a woman in a live-in relationship. The most significant one is the right to protection against domestic violence.
In 2013, the bench led by Hon’ble Justice K. S. Radhakrishnan framed guidelines to take along the live-in relationship within the expression relationship in the nature of marriage for the protection of women from domestic violence. Supreme Court in Indra Sarma vs VKV Sarma held that women partners in live-in relationships are protected under PWDV Act.
Section 2 (f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act states that “domestic relationship” means 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 in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.’
The Act protects women living in shared households against abusive partners and family members. The term “shared household” is defined in Section 2(s) of the PWDV Act and Section 2 (f) of the Act also states that it applies to a relationship in the nature of marriage as well as a married couple.
Right To Maintenance In Live-In Relationships — Palimony
Can a live-in partner claim property?
California Supreme Court coined the term “Palimony” for the first time in Marvin v. Marvin in 1976. Palimony refers to the financial support to a woman who has lived with a man for an extended period of time without marrying him and is then abandoned by him.
The term “Palimony” was discussed in the Indian Courts for the very first time in Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha and D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal. There are provisions for the maintenance for married women under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., Domestic Violence Act 2005, and Section 37 of the Special Marriage Act 1954. However, there is no specific law related to Palimony in India.
In November 2000, Home Ministery appointed Malimath Committee which was a Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System. The Committee submitted its report in 2003 where it made several recommendations in connection to the offences against women. One recommendation was to amend Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to alter the meaning of “wife”. As per the revision made, the expression “wife” incorporates the ladies who were previously in a live-in relationship and now her accomplice has abandoned her at his will so a lady in live-in relationship can now get the status of a wife.
It signifies that if a female has been in a live-in relationship for a sensible period of time, she ought to have the legitimate privileges as that of a spouse and can claim maintenance under Section 125 CrPC. It was noted that where partners live together as husband and wife, a presumption would arise in favour of wedlock.
However, many have opposed the same as the Section covers legally married women. As per a Jus Corpus Law Journal, report, a woman can seek compensation under Section 20(3) of the Protection of Domestic Violence Act of 2005 after demonstrating that her live in relationship was in the nature of marriage and was a domestic relationship.
Right To Shared Household In Live-In Relationship
In May 2022, the Supreme Court in the case of Lalita Toppo vs The State of Jharkhand and Anr noted that a live-in partner can seek maintenance under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
The bench comprising former CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice KM Joseph observed, “In fact, under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005 the victim i.e. estranged wife or live-in-partner would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely, to a shared household also.”
Legal Status And Rights Of Children Born In A Live-In Relationship
For the first time in 1993, Supreme Court granted legal validity to the children born from live-in relationships in the case of S.P.S. Balasubramanyam vs. Suruttayan. In addition to that, the bench observed that if a man and a woman reside in the same house and cohabit for a significant period of time, there is a presumption of marriage under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Ultimately, the children will be recognised as legitimate and will be eligible to receive a share in ancestral property.
In the case of 2010 of Bharatha Matha v. Vijaya Renganathan, Supreme Court held that the child born out of a live-in relationship may be allowed to inherit the property of the parents (if any) and therefore be given legitimacy in the eyes of law.
In its latest judgment on June 2022, Supreme Court in Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan & Another Vs Kattukandi Edathil Valsan & Others held that children born to partners in live-in relationships can be considered legitimate when the relationship is long-term and not of ‘walk in, walk out’ nature.
“Long course of living together between a male and female will raise a presumption of marriage between them and the children born in such relationship are considered to be legitimate children,” the bench said.
Stating that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, the apex court noted that if a man and woman consensually cohabited for a long period and their child cannot be denied the shares in the ancestral properties.
Right To Visa Extension In A Live-In Relationship
In a landmark case of Svetlana Kazankina v. Union of India, Supreme Court addressed an issue of an Uzbekistan national woman who requested the grant of a visa extension as she had been in a live-in relationship with an Indian man. As per the respondent, the reason behind the refusal of visa extension was that the concerned Rules permit such extension only upon proof of marriage and not in case of live-in relationships. The Court noted that provisions pertaining to the extension of visas to foreigners married to Indian nationals enabled such couples to enjoy companionship, love and affection. Considering live-in relationships a factum of life, the apex court opined that marriage and live-in relationships should not be treated differently while granting the extension of a visa.
Supreme Court Guidelines On Live-In Relationships In India
What qualifies your live-in relationship where it can be considered in the nature of marriage?
In the landmark judgment of Indra Sarma vs VKV Sarma, the apex court listed a few rules for a live-in relationship which is important in deciding whether a relationship is in the nature of marriage or not.
Relationship Duration: Section 2(f) of the Protection against Domestic Violence Act of 2005 uses the phrase “at any point in time,” which indicates a significant period of time to establish and maintain such a relationship, which might differ from situation to situation depending on the circumstances.
Shared Household: As defined under Section 2(s) of the DV Act, a shared household means a household where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with the respondent and includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and includes such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household.
Pooling of Resources And Financial Arrangements: Supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long-term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so as to have a long-standing relationship, may be a guiding factor.
Domestic Arrangements: Entrusting the responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or upkeeping the house, etc. is an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.
Sexual Relationship: Marriage like relationship refers to sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for emotional and intimate relationship, for procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring, etc.
Children: Having children is a strong indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage. Parties, therefore, intend to have a long-standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting them is also a strong indication.
Socialisation in Public: Holding out to the public and socialising with friends, relations and others, as if they are husband and wife is a strong circumstance to hold the relationship in the nature of marriage.
Intention and Conduct of the Parties: Common intention of parties as to what their relationship is to be and to involve, and as to their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.
Later on 8 April 2015, in a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court bench comprising Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice Amitava Roy noted that couples living in live-in relationships will be presumed to be legally married.
Why cannot Shraddha Walkar leave Aftab Poonawala even after several episodes of intimate partner violence?
Why women always give second chances and choose to stay in abusive relationships? Why it takes a whole lot of courage even for the well educated and established women to raise a voice against domestic violence?
When we start finding an answer to this very question, society can also be blamed because women staying in live-in relationships are often scoffed at, ridiculed, looked down upon and scared into silence. This happens even after the fact that the law recognises live-in relationships.
One of the reasons why women don’t come out of such intimate partner violence relationships is the fear of being judged and also of being blamed for the atrocities. That class of society has a strong belief that woman who choose to cohabitate with a man before their marriage deserves ill fate. Indian conventional society considers live-in relationships taboo.
In some of the victim blaming statements, Union Minister of State, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Kaushal Kishore crossed the limits. He put all the onus on “educated women”.
“It is the responsibility of girls also, as they leave their parents, who have reared them up for years, in one go. Why are they living in live-in relationships. If they have to do so, there should be proper registration for live-in relationships. If parents are not willing publicly for such relationships, you should have a court marriage and then live together.
What is this live-in relationship, this is giving rise to crime and it is a wrong thing and people are facing its consequences.
Most of the educated girls are going into live-in relationships. Lessons should be taken from these incidents and uneducated girls. Those who have been brought up by their parents should stay with someone as per their wishes. This should be stopped. Government has spread awareness about it over time…but will now do some decision making work to curb such incidents.”
The comment section of her social media profiles were filled with hate, gaslighting and victim blaming.
Hopefully, we have covered everything that you need to know about legal status of live-in relationships in India. Make it your mission to educate more and more women to know about their rights so that we don’t loose another Shraddha in the future. In addition to the awareness of the rights that girlfriends have in a live-in relationship, the victims should also be encouraged to avail these rights.
Besides this, we also need to behave like responsible citizens by not misusing the laws that are developed to protect the justice seeker.
FAQs Related To Live-In Relationships
What is a live-in relationship?
Though the term doesn’t have a legal definition, an unmarried couple living together for a long-term emotional and/or sexually intimate relationship is considered a live-in relationship. These relationships are often seen as a youth’s way of rejecting the shackles of institutional marriages.
How many years of live-in relationship is you considered married in India?
There is no law related to live-in relationships where the time is mentioned. Simultaneously, no past judgments have specified the time duration of a live-in relationship when it will be presumed in the nature of marriage.
How many years do you have to live together for common law marriage in India?
In D. Velusamy v D. Patchaiammal (2010), Supreme Court declared certain conditions for a common-law marriage or a relationship in the nature of marriage which include
- Must be of marriageable age.
- Must not be already married and is qualified to marry.
- Must be living together in a way that seems to society that the couple is married
- Must have cohabited for a “significant” period of time.
- Must be living together voluntarily.
The time when your live-in relationship will be considered in the nature of marriage is not specified in any ruling but it should be a significant period of time. A live-in relationship is presumed to be in nature of marriage when the partners live together for a long spell of time and represent them as husband and wife.
What is the legal age for live-in relationship in India?
Two consenting adults above the age of 18 can cohabit together without marrying each other.
What are the rights of a female in live-in relationships?
- Right to protection against domestic violence
- Right to maintenance (Palimony)
- Right to shared household
- Right to inheritance of property
- Right to claim legitimacy of children
- Right to visa extension
Is live-in relationship legal in India for married man?
In the landmark case of Indra Sarma vs VKV Sarma, Supreme Court mentioned the domestic relationship between an unmarried woman and a married adult male. Though cohabitation cannot be considered marriage, there is no legal barrier in that category of relationship. However, both parties should be consenting adults and should know the conditions in which they are living.
In addition to that, the unmarried girl should be aware of the marriage of her live-in partner before entering into such a relationship. If the information about the marriage is concealed, the woman can file a criminal complaint. The act is considered adultery which is no more a criminal offence. The wife of the married male can file for divorce on the grounds of cruelty.
Is live-in relationship considered as marriage in India?
In 1978, the Supreme Court in the case of Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation stated that a live-in relationship between consenting adults is considered legal if the requirements of marriage like marriageable age, consent, and soundness of mind are met.
Supreme Court in both the judgments, Badri Prasad v. Deputy Director Consolidation (1978) as well as in SPS Balasubramanian v. Suruttayan (1993), noted that if a man and a woman have resided together for a long duration of time, the legislation will assume them to be legally married unless the reverse is proven. Though there is a strong presumption which favours marriage, it is arbitrable. The person who contradicts the same will bear the burden of proof.
What are my rights as a live-in girlfriend?
- Right to protection against domestic violence
- Right to maintenance (Palimony)
- Right to shared household
- Right to inheritance of property
- Right to claim legitimacy of children
- Right to visa extension
Can my girlfriend in live-in relationship claim maintenance?
Yes, a live-in partner can also seek maintenance. Mainly, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 deals in providing protection and maintenance, alimony to women in a live-in relationship. Considering all the facts of the case, the court can decide on all reliefs. A female partner can also seek maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC when the relationship is in the nature of marriage.
In Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti V. State of Maharashtra case, the Bombay High Court noted that women need not necessarily be married to claim maintenance and it can be claimed by a woman under Section 125 CrPC be it, women, in a live-in relationship.
This article is written by Varsha. You can reach out to the author via email at email@example.com.