The British ruled India for about two hundred long years.Even after they retreated , they left an indelible mark on the mind of the young India, whether it be in the form of legislations, their culture or most importantly the craze for westernization. We are always in the hoarde of aping the west be it through western outfits or their lifestyles without delving deep into the consequences or repercussions of those acts on our society. Sometimes we defy our own culture in order to endorse theirs and label ourselves as the children of the globalised world.One of the such on going trends is the culture of live in relationship.
Live-in-relationship is the arrangement in which a man and a woman live together without getting married.This is now a days being taken as an alternative to marriage especially in the metropolitan cities.Currently the law is unclear about the status of such relationship though a few rights have been granted to prevent gross misuse of the relationship by the partners.
Reasons for Live in relationship:
“Married in haste, we repent at leisure”
The above line by William Congreve truly defines the mentality of the live in couples.The hectic lives of the metros don’t leave time for nurturing a family in its true sense.Now a days people are becoming more and more individualistic and career oriented. They spend less time at home and more time in offices.With more and more women going out for work, the nurturer of the family is not giving enough time for family and children. So actually why is there the need to go into marital bonding and forsake one’s liberty?Everyone likes a life free of tensions and responsibility.After working for night shifts who wants to get up early the next day to prepare children’s tiffin and make ready them for school?
Moreover, the divorce laws are too cumbersome in India.If one has to get a divorce then it takes years to finally get it done and trauma suffered by the partners during these years is too much. This is also one of the biggest reason for live in relations.There are too many legalities involved with the institution of marriage which one can easily escape in the case of live in relationships. It’s a much popular analogy of live in relationsip that its like “taking a car for a test drive”as the couple can easily walk in and walk out of the relationship without any legal bondage.Its better to know the person beforehand than marrying in haste and getting oneself in a legal mess.
Legal status of live in relationship:
The Fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India grants to all its citizens “right to life and personal liberty” which means that one is free to live the way one wants.Live in relationship may be immoral in the eyes of the conservative Indian society but it is not “illegal” in the eyes of law.In case of Kushboo,the south Indian actress who endorsed pre- marital sex and live in relationship,22 criminal appeals were filed against her which the Supreme Court quashed saying that how can it be illegal if two adults live together, in their words “living together cannot be illegal.”
Now the problem is not just limited to the legality of the relationship but now people are coming up about the rights of the live in partners and the status of children born out of such wedlock.The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 gives the status of legitimacy to every child, irrespective of birth out of a void, voidable or valid marriage. However, they don’t have property and maintenance rights.In case the couple break up then who would maintain the child in case none wants to take responsibility remains a big problem
The status of the female partner remains vulnerable in a live in relationship given the fact she is exploited emotionally and physically during the relationship.The Domestic Violence Act provides protection to the woman if the relationship is “in the nature of marriage”. The Supreme Court in the case of D. Velusamy v.D. Patchaiammal held that, a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ under the 2005 Act must also fulfill the following criteria:
(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, and in addition the parties must have lived together in a ‘shared household’ as defined in Section 2(s) of the Act. Merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a ‘domestic relationship’. It also held that if a man has a ‘keep’ whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and/or as a servant it would not, in our opinion, be a relationship in the nature of marriage’.
In June, 2008, The National Commission for Women recommended to Ministry of Women and Child Development made suggestion to include live in female partners for the right of maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC. This view was supported by the judgement in Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State Of Maharashtra and Others . The positive opinion in favour of live in relationship was also seconded by Maharashtra Government in October, 2008 when it accepted the proposal made by Malimath Committee and Law Commission of India which suggested that if a woman has been in a live-in relationship for considerably long time, she ought to enjoy the legal status as given to wife. However, recently it was observed that it is divorced wife who is treated as a wife in context of Section 125 of CrPC and if a person has not even been married i.e. the case of live in partners, they cannot be divorced, and hence cannot claim maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC.
Law In other Countries:
In France, there is the provision of “Civil Solidarity Pacts” known as “pacte civil de solidarite” or PaCS, passed by the French National Assembly in October 1999 that allows couples to enter into a union by signing before a court clerk. The contract binds “two adults of different sexes or of the same sex, in order to organise their common life” and allows them to enjoy the rights accorded to married couples in the areas of income tax, housing and social welfare. The contract can be revoked unilaterally or bilaterally after giving the partner, three month’s notice in writing.
In Philippines, live in relationship couple’s right to each other’s property is governed by co- ownership rule. Article 147, of the Family Code, Philippines provides that when a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership .
In the UK, live in couples does not enjoy legal sanction and status as granted to married couple. There is no obligation on the partners to maintain each other. Partners do not have inheritance right over each other’s property unless named in their partner’s will. As per a 2010 note from the Home Affairs Section to the House of Commons, unmarried couples have no guaranteed rights to ownership of each other’s property on breakdown of relationship. However, the law seek to protect the right of child born under such relationship. Both parents have the onus of bringing up their children irrespective of the fact that whether they are married or cohabiting .
The live in relation were conferred legal sanctity in Scotland in the year 2006 by Family Law (Scotland) Act. Section 25 (2) of the Act postulates that a court of law can consider a person as a co-habitant of another by checking on three factors; the length of the period during which they lived together, the nature of the relationship during that period and the nature and extent of any financial arrangements, in case of breakdown of such relationship, Section 28 of the Act gives a cohabitant the right to apply in court for financial support. This is in case of separation and not death of either partner. If a partner dies intestate, the survivor can move the court for financial support from his estate within 6 months .
We are a modern bunch of youths who want to experiment with new things in life instead of just lingering onto the old customary traditions levied on us by our forefathers.Live in relationships does provide a remedy for a carefree life free from the hassles of responsibility and commitment which is the very prerequisite of the institution of marriage.Marriage promotes adjustment while in live in relationship the emphasis is on individual freedom.For me such a relationship is a way of escapism.No relationship can get stronger and meaningful if there is an escape route available.
Legalizing live in relationship means that a totally new set of laws need to be framed for governing the relations including protection in case of desertion, cheating in such relationships, maintenance, inheritance etc.Litigation would drastically increase in this case.
Moreover the psychological impact on children born out of this relationship would be very bad leading to mental diseases and criminal tendencies.All this would give rise to an unstable society.
The most important fact that why do people get in live in relationships?If we would make so many laws regarding it then what will happen to the whole idea of liberty that is attached to such live in relationship.Now it is upon us to weigh the pros and cons of this and then accordingly take a decision for ourselves.
Student, Dr.Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]