Live-in relation i.e. cohabitation is a situation in which two people choose to live together for an
extended period or permanently while maintaining an emotionally and/or sexually involved
connection. The term is most frequently applied to couples who are not married.
Today, cohabitation is a common pattern among people in the Western world. People may live
together for several reasons. These may include wanting to test compatibility or to establish
financial security before marrying. It may also be because they are unable to legally marry, for
instance, if they are of the same sex, some interracial or inter-religious marriages are not legal or
permitted. Other reasons include living with someone before marriage to avoid divorce. Legality of
live-in relationship in India
S.Khushboo v. Kanniammal and Anr. (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that it is not illegal for a man
and a woman to cohabit without getting married. “What is the offense when two people desire to
live together? Does that qualify as an offense? K.G. Balakrishnan, the Chief Justice of India,
Justices Deepak Verma, and B.S. Chauhan made up the special three-judge bench that made the
observation. According to the Supreme Court, no rule forbids premarital sex or live-in relationships.
The Supreme Court reportedly referred to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which establishes
the right to life and personal liberty as fundamental rights, when it stated that “living together is a
right to live” and thus, despite being considered immoral by society, it is not an offense under the
According to the SC judgment in Badri Prasad Vs Dy. Director of Consolidation (1978) live-in
relationships in India are legal but subject to caveats like age of marriage, consent, and soundness of
mind. The legality of Live-in relationships stems from Article 19(a)- The right to freedom of speech
and expression and Article 21- the protection of the right to life and personal liberty of the
Constitution of India. The legitimacy of live-in relationships could be traced to the 1970s.
In 1978, the Supreme Court in Badri Prasad Vs Board of Consolidators ruled that a presumption of
marriage arises if a man and a woman have lived as husband and wife for a long time.“Where the
couples have lived together for a significant amount of time as husband and wife, there is a strong
presumption in favor of wedlock. Although the presumption is rebuttable, the burden of proof falls
heavily on the person trying to strip the connection of its legal foundation, the SC concluded”
In 2001, the Allahabad High Court in Payal Sharma Vs Nari Niketan ruled that it is not illegal for a
man and a woman to live together. The HC also distinguished between law and morality. “Hence,
she is a major [adult] and she has the right to go anywhere and live with anyone. In our opinion, a
man and a woman, even without getting married can live together if they wish. This may be
considered immoral by society but it is not illegal,” said the HC.
Since adultery was declared not a crime in Joseph Shine v. Union of India in 2018 by the Supreme
Court, the adultery exception is no longer valid.
In 2013, the Supreme Court in Indra Sarma vs VKV Sarma ruled that the woman partner in a live-in
relationship is protected under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act,
Rights of partners in live-in relationships
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that women are protected under the PWDV Act, 2005 as live-in
relationships fall under Section 2(f) of the law which defines a domestic relationship.
It defines a domestic relationship as 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 like marriage, adoption or are family members living together as
a joint family”.
Right to Maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure
As we know section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 deals with the right to
maintenance, which is now applicable to the live-in partner who is indigent. The definition of
“wife” was changed by an amendment to Section 125. The amendment was based on the
recommendations of the Malimath Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System. An
observance was made based on the recommendations of the Committee Report that women living in
a live-in relationship or have been deserted by their partner, acquire and enjoy the status of a wife
SC lays down conditions for women seeking maintenance in live-in relationships
In 2010, the Supreme Court in Velusamy Vs D Patchaimal laid down the following criteria:
1. The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses
2. They must be of legal age to marry
3. They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried
4. They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to
spouses for a significant time.
Therefore, certain live-in relationships, where two married persons or one married and another
unmarried person are staying together, do not have a legal basis.
Women are also eligible for alimonies in live-in relationships, according to the 2016 Punjab High
Court judgment in the Ajay Bhardwaj Vs Jyotsana case.
Legitimacy of the Child born out of live-in relationship
In June 2022, the Supreme Court in Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan & Another Vs Kattukandi Edathil
Valsan & Others observed and reiterated that long cohabitation between a man and woman raises a
strong presumption in favor of their marriage. SC ruled that children born to partners in live-in
relationships can be considered legitimate. This is conditional in a way that the relationship needs to
be 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,” said the SC judgment. This extends property
rights to such children as well. The SC said, “The law presumes in favor of marriage and against
concubinage”. If a man and woman consensually cohabited for a long period and their child cannot
be denied the shares in the ancestral properties. The Supreme Court has also ruled that such children
are eligible to be part of family succession.
NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF LIVE – IN RELATIONSHIP
MURDER CASE IN DELHI: Man kills live-in partner, dumps body in the fridge at Delhi dhaba,
gets married same day- A 24 yrs man allegedly strangled his live-in partner with a mobile phone
cable and dumped her body in a refrigerator at a dhaba on the outskirts of Mitraon village in west
Delhi, before getting married to other women later that day.
The victim, Nikki Yadav, 24, was living with the accused, Sahil Gehlot, at a rented house near
Dwarka since the lockdown ended.
MURDER CASE IN MUMBAI: A 32-year-old woman was murdered and her body was chopped
into pieces and boils them in pressure cooker by her 56- year-old live-in partner at their rented
accommodation at Mira Road in Mumbai, and the couple had been residing in the flat for the last
According to police, the accused, identified as Manoj Sahni, killed the victim, Saraswati Vaidya,
three to four days ago, then chopped her body into pieces and boiled them in a pressure cooker
before disposing of them. Police said that over 12-13 pieces of the woman’s body were recovered
from the site.
What can we say about these recent murders in live in relationships that alarmed everyone? Was
this what happened because they had no obligations to society or because they just had themselves
to answer to? Is this acceptable? Why can we argue that a live-in relationship is a blessing or a curse
after all these instances where one person lost his life and their only mistake was entering one and
foolishly believing someone? However, as I previously mentioned, I believe that there are various
disadvantages to living together.However, in my opinion, there are numerous drawbacks to living
together, so remain secure and safe as I previously indicated.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
Marriage is a relationship between two people that is legally and socially accepted by society. So
you can imagine how a society can accept two people living together without marriage. There are
no laws in India for the regulation of live-in relationships. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of India
is giving its judgments from time to time and helps couples for the growth of live-in relationships in
India. Couples in live-in relationships have more chances to get to know one another personally and
have the freedom to call it over whenever they desire. However, they must overcome numerous
social and legal obstacles. Women who are in such relationships are frequently at a disadvantage.
The Supreme Court has set instructions to control such partnerships and to safeguard the rights of
the women participating in them and the children born as a result, as was previously mentioned.
Mental distress, lack of commitment, No family support and more flexibility are some
disadvantages of a live-in relationship. The social values and norms of the younger generation have
altered. Live-in relationships might be acceptable in some situations, but there is no denying the
significance of the institution of marriage in preserving social order.
Ms. Nishu Sudan
Ph.D. Research Scholar of Law