Exploring The Legality Of Live-In Relationships in India

Author: Prerna Deep

British Council GREAT Scholar
LLM, University of Edinburgh


The success of every society depends upon the interaction and relationships among its beings. Humans need to obtain inspiration as well as experience from each other. With the advent of every decade and century, situations alter, and people must adapt to this modern age. This blog calls attention to new relationships built up, considering the need to adjust in the modifying contemporary era. Live-in Relationships involve aspects of love, trust, and compatibility, but they test one’s fantasy of cohabitation by replacing it with reality. The blog further highlights the legal aspects surrounding the live-in relationships and their future.


India has an ambiguous stance on its modernity. While some feel that it is a progressive period, others might still rebuke it. In Alok Kumar v State, the Delhi High Court in 2010 defined a Live-in relationship

“as a no strings attached relationship, wherein this relationship does not create any legal bond between the parties. It is a contract of living together which is renewed every day by the parties and can be terminated by either of the parties without the consent of the other party, and one party can walk out at will at any time.”[1]

Live-in relationship or unmarried cohabitation is a term for a relationship that tends to bring any two people (mostly a heteronomous couple in India) together under a single roof to practice a relation or bond that might be somewhat similar to a marital alliance. However, in no way can one equate a live-in with a marriage. Despite being devoid of the legal backup, it practices some power today but still has a loose grip on legislative matters. Marriage tends to enjoy societal support, legal liberties, as well as well-defined dos and don’ts. Live-in relationships check the couple’s compatibility for the future. Due to its radical notions, live-in often turns out to be a hostile relationship. Marriage tends to provide stability for everyday emotions like jealousy, passive-aggressive behaviour, and desire to walk out. This way, marriage can be advantageous, but an excess of any such emotion might indicate marriage to the wrong person, making it harder to walk out and be an outcast. Live-in relationships make it easier for one to act upon such everyday emotions, leading to an unstable relationship.


Earlier, the Legal System did not distinguish between live-in relationships and marriage. In cases like A Dinohamy v W L Blahamy[2], the Privy Council laid down a broad rule of presumption for marriage when a man and woman have been living together for a considerable time unless explicitly proved otherwise. For the first time, the Supreme Court recognized the live-in relationship as a valid marriage in Badri Prasad v Dy. Director of Consolidation[3], in which the Court gave legal validity to a 50-year live-in relationship of a couple.

In the age of modernisation, gradually, the Court evolved the judicial perspective towards live-in relationships. In the landmark case of S. Khushboo v Kanniammal & Anr.[4], the Apex Court held that two consenting adults living together could not be unlawful even if it is immoral in the eyes of society and comes under the ambit of Article 21[5], Right to Life. In Payal Sharma v Superintendent, Nari Niketan and others[6], Allahabad High Court said that a major woman has a right to go and be with anyone and even live together without marriage. In the case of Patel and Others[7], the Apex Court has held that a live-in relationship between two adults is not an offence. The concept of the live-in relationship was again recognized in the case of Tulsa v Durghatiya[8]. Alok Kumar v The State[9] saw a setback as it held that the partners could not complain of infidelity or immorality in the case of live-in relationships. In Indra Sarma v V.K.V. Sarma[10], the Supreme Court noted five categories that can be considered within the ambit of live-in relationships and proved in the law. In 2015, the Apex Court said a presumption of marriage in couples living together for an extended period.[11]


This act is protective of a live-in partner. The scope of Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 Act includes the relationship of marriage and a relationship `like marriage.’ The live-in partner, however, can seek legal remedies and claim benefits only if it follows the conditions laid down in the case of D. Velusamy v D. Patchaiammal[12], and ‘relationship like marriage’ under the 2005 Act[13] must also fulfil some basic criteria, and by doing so, the female partner can claim palimony. While taking a step further towards justice, Delhi High Court in Varsha Kapoor v UOI & Ors[14] held that a female companion living in a relationship akin to marriage could seek relief not only against male partner or husband but also against the relatives of the male partner. The live-in partner can seek relief against the man in harassment for dowry cases under section 498A[15]. In June 2008, NCW to the Ministry of Women and Child Development recommended to include live-in partners to claim the right of maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973[16]. It was also observed in the case of Chanmuniya v Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha[17] to give a broader interpretation to the term `wife’ under Sec-125 to include those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period. However, till recently, in Malti v State of Uttar Pradesh[18], the Allahabad High Court held that a woman living with a man could not be equated as his wife, and under section 125[19], only a legally wedded wife can be given relief. Rights of children born out of live-in relationships are not guarded under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 as the concept of live-in relationships is beyond the ambit of ‘marriage.’ In the recent case of Bharata Matha & Ors v R Vijaya Renganathan & Ors[20], however, the Supreme Court has taken a more liberal stand by holding that child born out of the live-in relationship may be allowed to inherit property but that does not extend to coparcenary’ property.


With the changing world, there is a need to alter the mindset of our society as well. The live-in relationship in India is still considered a taboo and an immoral act. We need to be more receptive and acceptable to the changing face of the family. Even though the Apex Court has held that live-in relationships are not illegal, yet they are not sufficient to protect the rights of partners, mostly women, and children born out of such relationships. We need explicit provisions and legislation concerning this newly welcomed concept. Though Judiciary is trying to accord legality to this concept, we need specific legislation; the Court needs to break free the shackles of primitivism and enter modernism. India is still battling to adapt to the era of live-in relationships. Our handcuffed customs warn us to be well behaved within society’s boundaries, which tends to develop eventually. Considering the change, it is, therefore, the responsibility of the law framers to be on the same page as of modernity and to make essential and efficient laws for safeguarding justice. One shall soon embrace that change is the only constant that ensures our sustainable development in society.



[1] Crl.M.C.No. 299/2009.

[2] AIR 1927 PC 185.          

[3] 1978 AIR 1557.

[4] JT 2010 (4) SC 478.

[5] Constitution of India, 1950.

[6] 2001 (3) AWC 1778.

[7] (2006) 8 SCC 726.

[8] (2008) 4 SCC 520.

[9] Crl.M.C.No. 299/2009.

[10] SC 2013 (14) SCALE 448.

[11] Choudhary, Amit Anand. “Couples Living Together Will Be Presumed Married, Supreme Court Rules – Times of India.” The Times of India, India, 12 Apr. 2015.

[12] Criminal Appeal Nos. 2028-2029 of 2010.

[13] The Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

[14] WP (Crl.) No. 638 of 2010.

[15] Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[16] Tnn. “Maintenance for a Live-in Partner? – Times of India.” The Times of India, India, 29 June 2008.

[17] (2011) 1 SCC 141.

[18] 2000 Cri LJ 4170 (All).

[19] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[20] CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7108 of 2003.

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