LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS: A NEW DEFINITION OF LEGAL WEDLOCK?


It is “an arrangement of living under which the couples which are unmarried live together to conduct a long-going relationship similarly as in marriage". There is no current legislation that recognizes live-in-relationships in India. The rights and obligations of the parties in such a relationship and the status of children born out of such relationships are also not defined in any specific law in India. Sec 2(f) of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 provides for the protection, maintenance, and right of Palimony to the female partner in a live-in-relationship, upon complaint. In S. P. S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruthaya, the Supreme Court held that if a man and woman are living under the same room for a number of years, there will be a presumption of marriage under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act and the children born to them will be legitimate. With this comes the right which is guaranteed to the married couples. The children born in such a relationship are considered to be legitimate and enjoy all the rights that a child born in a valid marriage enjoys. Thus, the female live-in-partners and the children of live-in- couples have been granted adequate protection by the Judicial System.


JUDICIAL APPROACH


According to Sec 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, when a man and a woman live together for a long spell of time as husband and wife, then there would be a presumption of marriage. In the case A. Dinohamy v. W. L. Blahamy, the privy council laid down the general proposition that, where a man and woman are proved to have lived together as husband and wife, the law will presume that they were living together in consequence of a valid marriage, and not in a state mere cohabitation, unless the contrary is clearly proved. In the case of Mohabhat Ali v. Md. Ibrahim Khan, the same stand was taken stating that where a man and woman cohabitated for a long period of time, the law presumes that they are married couples. But, in a case Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation, the SC observed that the presumption of a man and women as married couples upon living together for a long time was rebuttable, but the burden of proof lies upon the person who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin to prove that no marriage took place.


On 31 March 2011 a special Bench of the Supreme Court of India consisting of G.S. Singhvi, Asok Kumar Ganguly in Revanasiddappa & Anr. vs Mallikarjun & Ors remarked that irrespective of the relationship between parents, the birth of a child out of such a relationship has to be viewed independently of the relationship of the parents. A child born out of such a relationship is innocent and is entitled to all the rights and privileges available to children born in a valid marriage. The legal right to maintenance of the female live-in-partner has been explained by the Supreme Court in the case, VELUSAMY VS. D. PATCHAIAMMAL, where the Supreme Court examined the definition of ‘aggrieved person’ and ‘domestic relationship’. It was of the opinion that the expression ‘Relationship in the nature of marriage’ which is included within the definition of ‘domestic relationship’ has not been clearly defined in the Act. The SC commented in the course of its judgment women in ‘relationship of marriage’ and ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ should be protected and benefited. “Therefore the Supreme Court held that “Relationship in the nature of marriage” is akin to a Common Law Marriage. Common-Law Marriages require that although not being formally married:-


a. The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses


b. They must be of legal age to marry.


c. They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried,


d. They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.”


CONCLUSION

The relations in the nature of marriage are not exactly marriage but somewhat resembles a marriage. The spouses do not follow the procedures and conditions which the couples in a valid marriage perform. It is often believed that relations in the nature of marriage are illegal and invalid. But, there is no legislation that declares them as invalid. ‘Relations in nature of marriage’ not only includes live-in-relationship but also recognizes void and voidable marriage, it is just that live-in-relationship is the much-focussed domain. Sec 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 confers the status of legitimacy to the children born in void or voidable marriage. Such a child is given has the right to inherit his parent’s property, but not anybody else’s. Live-in-relationship is no longer a novelty to Indian society. Live-in-relationship couples are multiplying in number, but there is no threat to the institution of marriage.

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