Live-in Relationship and its Legal Provisions in India

To the point

Live- in Relationship means to live together without tying a knot. The theory of a live-in relationship is not defined in India. For a long time in India, living together before marriage was an offense or crime; as per Indian culture and custom, it was not accepted by society. Earlier, there was the concept of ‘Ekatpani Vrat’ which means one man and one wife, which is the most religious form of marriage. As time changes, societies evolve and accept those practices that they have refused for a long time.

The concept of live-in relationships is not recognized by legal unions in India as it is in other countries. Even so, the Supreme Court held that a live-in relationship is not a criminal offense or illegal. Partners who live together without marriage do not have the same legal rights as marriage, and the law provides legal protection to the couple who live together.

Legal Jargon

  • Maintenance It is obtained as spousal support or alimony, and the term is impact replacing alimony.
  • Alimony It is financial support that is provided by the spouse after the divorce to take care of the basic needs of life.
  • Legitimacy Something is legal because it meets the specific requirements of the law.
  • Ownership The legal right of an individual, group, corporation, or government to the possession of a thing.
  • Adultery intended sexual contact between two people of opposite genders who are not married to each other under law.

 The Proof

They may want to test each other’s relationships before committing to a formal union. The existing marriage failed, or legal and social issues arose during the separation. Sometimes they fear the responsibility of marriage and later parenthood. Therefore, when there is no commitment or time to spend with their partner, being in a relationship is the best option for them.

Sometimes lesbian or gay couples who are not allowed to marry are in a live-in relationship. And in another case, a couple does not feel marriage is necessary. It is also free from the chaos of family drama and lengthy court procedures.

Under the banner of Jyeshtha Nagrik Living Relationship Mandal Nagpur, a group of senior citizens led by former banker Arvind Godbole have started an organization to help people find a partner in their later years. Vina Mulya Amulya Seva (VMAS) Ahemedabad is a social support organization for the elderly in Samellan, where seven couples who met at a group meeting decided to press for a relationship. After showing openness to a partner in every aspect of their life, the single people in life have created a stir in social and media circles. This measure aims to reduce the feelings of loneliness, neglect, and isolation that many senior citizens face in their later lives. This is a nice gesture from the elders.


Live-in relationships are increasing significantly in India as an easy way, similar to marriage. It is defined as domestic cohabitation between an adult couple who are not married. It seems to be stress-free.
A company has no legal obligations; on the contrary, it has many complications, obligations, and legal commitments.
Many guidelines have been issued in India regarding child maintenance, property, and legal status.
various decisions of the Supreme Court. It is still a debatable issue in India. There are many gray areas in which they need due diligence, such as official documentation, cultural issues, property rights, wills and gift rights, anti-religion status, the LGBT community, and so on.
The primary focus of the article is to understand the concept of a live-in relationship using secondary resources. An attempt was then made to study the problems and challenges faced by couples with this disease using descriptive and analytical methodology. Finally, the article argues for the necessity of a separate, secular framework and a gender-sensitive law for a couple who choose to cohabit in a live-in relationship.

 1. Live-in-relationship relationships are not offenses.

 Case: Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan (2001), SCC OnLine All 332.

Judgment: A bench comprising Justice M. Katju and Justice R.B. Misra observed that, “In our opinion, a man and a woman, even without marriage, can live together if they want. This can be taken into account as an immoral society, but it is not illegal. There is a distinction between law and morality.

Case: S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Anr (2010) 5 SCC 600 3

Judgment: The Supreme Court noted that living in a relationship between two adults without a formal marriage cannot be considered a crime. It is further added that there is no law against live-in relationships or premarital sex.

Case: Ramdev Food Products (P) Ltd. v. Arvindbhai Rambhai (2006), 8 SCC 726.

Judgment: The court noted that two people who are in a live-in relationship without a formal marriage are not perpetrators of criminal activity. Therefore, live-in relationships are legal in India. According to Art. 21 of the Constitution of India, the right to life and personal liberty are fundamental.

2. Protection of Underage Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005

According to 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act 2005,

Domestic relationship means a relationship between two persons who at any time live or have lived together in a common household, if they are related, by marriage or through a relationship of the nature of marriage, adoption, or family members living together as a joint family. Residence is not absolutely defined in the law, but interpretation is left to the courts. The court interprets the term “relationship of the nature of marriage” based on the above provision.

 3. Basic factors for marking a live-in relationship as legal:

 A relationship “like marriage” under the 2005 Act must agree to certain basic criteria, which were stated by the Supreme Court in D Patchaiammal v. D Velusamy AIR 2011 SC 479. and Indra Sarma v. V.K.V.Sarma housing. Women in such relationships must meet specific criteria to benefit from PWDA, such as:

A)  Age:

Case: Payal Katara v. Superintendent Nari Niketan Kandri Vihar Agra and Others (2001) SCC OnLine All 332.

Judgment: The Allahabad High Court said that “a lady of about 21 years of age who is a major has the right to go anywhere and that every man and woman, even without marriage, can live together if they want” in housing.

Case: Nandakumar vs. The State of Kerala (2018)

Judgment: The Kerala High Court held that an adult couple can be in a live-in relationship even if the man’s age is below 21, the legal age for marriage.

B) Significant period:

The expression “at any time” is given in Section 2(f) PWDA, which means a significant or reasonable period to maintain and continue the relationship.

Case: Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant (2010) 9 SCC 209

Judgment: The court held that there has to be some sincerity and seriousness to prove the relationship is legal. Spending a week or having a one-night stand cannot fall under the category of a domestic relationship. A live-in relationship, if it lasts for a long time, cannot be labeled as a walk-in and walk-out” relationship, and there is a presumption of marriage between the parties.

Case: Badri Prasad v. Dy, director of consolidation.

Judgment: Justice Krishna Iyer believed that there was a strong presumption in favor of marriage where the partners lived together long-term as husband and wife. Although the presumption is rebuttable, it carries a heavy burden for those who try to strip the relationship of its legal origin.

C) The couple must voluntarily live:

The individual decision of the couple with the common intention to live together. This includes supporting each other, sharing their respective roles and responsibilities, financial arrangements, social interaction in public, and so on to demonstrate loyalty. If a man has “stamina” that he uses mainly for sexual purposes or perhaps as a maid or slave and supports her financially, it would not be considered a relationship in the nature of marriage or equal marriage.

D) Who can live together without marriage?

Case: Indra Sarma v. V.K.V.Sarma case, 2013.

 Judgment: The Supreme Court illustrated five categories where the concept of live-in relationships can be considered and proved in court. A live-in-relationship

  1. a) Between an unmarried adult woman and a single adult man, which is a less complicated relationship.
  2. b) Between an unmarried woman and a married adult man, if a single, grown woman knowingly enters into a relationship with a married, grown man.
  3. c) Between a married adult woman and an unmarried adult man, if he is an adult, a married woman knowingly enters into a relationship with a single adult man.
  4. d) An unmarried woman unwittingly enters into a relationship with a married adult male.
  5. e) Between same-sex partners (gays and lesbians), although PWDA does not recognize such a relation, and this relation cannot be called a relation of nature marriage according to the Act.


The third category defined under the above categories is debatable because it approves housing a relationship between a married adult woman and an unmarried adult man that was previously considered to be an offense under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code.

Case: Joseph Shine vs. Union of India (September 27,, 2018)

Judgment: The five-member constitutional panel of the Supreme Court unanimously decided on September 27, 2018 to scrap Section 497, and it is no longer a crime in India.

It was argued that the section violated two articles of the Constitution of India: Article 14, “The state does not deny anyone equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the state territory of India, and Article 15, ‘The state shall not discriminate against any citizen merely on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them.”

While reading the judgment, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, “It (adultery) cannot be a criminal felony,” but can be grounds for civil matters such as divorce.

4. Legal status and property rights of children born out of live-in relationships

A) Legal status:

Case: The Supreme Court in Tulsa v. Durghatiya (2008) 4 SCC 520.

Judgment: The court held that a child born into such a relationship would not already be considered an illegitimate child. A notable prerequisite for the same is that parents must have lived under the same roof and lived together for a significant period of time, which proves their sincerity toward a relationship.

Case: S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan (1994) AIR 133

(ffirst case to endorse the legitimacy of children born of a living relationship)

Judgment: The Supreme Court ruled that “if a man and a woman live under the same roof and cohabit for several years, there will be a presumption under Section 114 of the Act. The law of evidence that they live as husband and wife and the children born to them shall not be illegitimate.’

B) Ownership rights:

Case: Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun

Judgment: The Supreme Court approved inheritance to four children born of a live-in relationship by treating them as “legal heirs.” The court has therefore guaranteed that inheritance shall not be denied to any child born of a live-in relationship for a significant period of time.

Case: Bharatha Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan (2010), 11 SCC 483

Judgment: The case was also granted legitimacy by the Supreme Court, and a child born of a live-in relationship in the eyes of the law holds that he might be allowed to inherit his parents’ property.

C) Maintenance

The Malimath Committee also sought to extend the definition of ‘wife’ under Section 125 CPC to include a woman who has lived with a man related by wife under the same roof for a reasonable length of time.

Case: Chanmuniya v. Chanmuniya Kumar Singh Kushwaha (2011)

Judgment: The Supreme Court refused the judgment of the High Court, by which it was decided that the appellant’s wife was not entitled to maintenance of that alimony according to § 125 civil disciple. Only a legally married woman can apply, and it was granted alimony to the wife (appellant) with the fact that the provisions of Sec. 125 of the Civil Code were considered in light of Section 26 of PWDVA, 2005. The Supreme Court held that women in live-in relationships are equally entitled to all claims and reliefs that are legally available to a to a married wife.

Case: Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State of Maharashtra and another 15 AIR 2009 (NOC) 808 (Bombay)

Judgment: The Supreme Court observed that a woman in a live-in relationship could also claim maintenance under Section 125 of the CPC. It is not necessary to strictly establish the marriage to claim maintenance under Section 125 of the CPC.


 Live-in relationships may be a controversial and new concept in India, but they are taking off everywhere. Cohabitation, or life in a relationship, is often humanistic and individualistic. Although it is very widespread in most Western countries, the reality of the social structure in India is drastically different. This can be understood from the fact that in India, marriage continues to be an institution that is preferred over any other form of union. But this does not mean that adult, unmarried couples who wish to live together under the same roof should be banned or condemned for any reason. Judiciary efforts to protect the interests of people living in such an arrangement are certainly welcome and a step for the greater benefit of society.

Author- Aastha Srivastava   Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University ( A Central University), Lucknow 




Live-in Relationship and its Legal Provisions in India

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *