Live-in relationships law in India

Submitted by asandil on 3/22/2023


Indian society shunned the idea of a live-in relationship for a very long period. In Indian tradition, it used to be illegal to live together before getting married. The Hindu Dharma prefers “One man, one wife” as the most sacred type of matrimony, which is vital. But, as society begins to advance intellectually, new generations are willing to put up with a few objectionable customs.

India’s social dynamics have improved somewhat with the passage of time and modernity. The preconceived conceptions of Indian society have been challenged in a number of rulings. Live-in relationships are a common example of a social truth that is nonetheless frowned upon and seen through a patriarchal lens. While some Indians have accepted it, a majority of them do not. Even Bollywood and local cinema have helped to normalize the concept of live-in relationships in India. Yet there is still some criticism of this concept.

There are several opinions about live-in relationships; some are progressive and some also make regressive claims. This article’s goal is to examine the legal ramifications of live-in relationships in India. The definition, legality, and problems associated with the live-in relationship are examined first. The benefits of pursuing a live-in relationship are then described, including the right to maintenance, the right to inherit property, the validity of children born from live-in relationships, etc.

What is the meaning of a Live-in Relationship?

Although it can be confusing to define a “live-in relationship”, it generally refers to two single people sharing a home together. Living together full-time is more and more common among couples. It may be claimed, nonetheless, that the incidence is higher in metropolitan areas and tier-1 cities, particularly among young people with aspirations for upward mobility. Before deciding to be married, couples frequently start live-in relationships to see how well they get along. It enables them to understand one another better and make wise judgments about significant commitments like marriage.

Live-in relationships enable separations without the involvement of the government, which is crucial in nations like India where divorce is stigmatized and frowned upon.

On the other side, pre-marital sex is taboo in Indian culture. Living together prior to marriage is so generally seen as culturally inappropriate, unethical, and contrary to social norms. Because of this, even if some people have openly accepted the idea of live-in relationships, it nevertheless encounters social rejection based on conventional beliefs.

Main issues with live-in relationships

When a man and a woman decide to stay in a live-in relationship, it raises a number of challenges. Here are some more;

  • Is Indian society prepared to accept this new type of relationship?
  • What are the repercussions of embracing or rejecting such connections for the survival and development of society?
  • Should new laws be introduced in India to regulate these relationships?
  • What are the repercussions for married couples of legalizing such a relationship?
  • Should the current laws pertaining to upkeep, guardianship, succession, and inheritance be altered to account for such relationships?
  • What part does the court in India play in the formation of these relationships?

The Indian judiciary system has so far been the most consistent in recognizing such partnerships. Nonetheless, the Indian judicial system is prepared to uphold the rights of society’s most defenseless citizens when it comes to upholding women’s claims in such situations.


Although the legitimacy of such partnerships is still in question, some rights have been offered by reviewing and amending the legislation so that the parties can avoid abusing such relationships. The following sections discuss a number of laws.

  • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution The fundamental rights to life and personal freedom are protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court had ruled in several cases, including S.Khusboo v. Kanniammal and Anr. 2010, that these rights also include the freedom to cohabit without restriction.

  • The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

A connection “in the nature of marriage” between two people residing in a shared house is referred to as a domestic relationship under Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. A domestic relationship is characterized as a union between two people who currently live together or have previously lived in the same home, are related through consanguinity, marriage, or a relationship that has the same meaning as marriage, adoption, or are friends and family who are living as a family.

Living together for an extended period of time and presenting oneself as husband and wife provide marriage-like traits to the couple who are staying in live-in relationships. Because of this, they are covered by the Domestic Violence Act of 2005, which entitles women in live-in relationships to protection and maintenance. This Act makes relationships other than marriage permissible.

  • The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

A wife may request maintenance from her husband if he refuses to provide for her under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. If a woman can establish a bond that resembles marriage, the court will presume that the two are wed and will treat the woman as a wife, making her eligible to receive maintenance from the male. It is primarily intended to protect women from domestic abuse and to raise the legal standard for partners in live-in relationships to that of marriage by bringing them under the jurisdiction of Section 125. Following the recommendations of the Malimath committee which was constituted by the Home Ministry, the Supreme Court built on this precedent. Justice Malimath served as the committee’s chair, and its task was to offer suggestions about the aforementioned proposition.

In 2009, the Committee submitted its recommendations, recommending that Section 125’s definition of alimony/maintenance be changed to include women as eligible recipients. The Supreme Court decided in the 2009 case of Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State of Maharastra and Anr that a woman is not necessary to show marriage in order to request maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC, implying that a woman in a live-in relationship is also entitled to support. This verdict exemplifies the liberal, modern posture of our judicial system.

The legality of a live-in relationship

Live-in relationships in India are not specifically governed by any laws or customs.

In India, live-in relationships are not specifically governed by any law or custom. As a result, the Supreme court has expanded the idea of live-in couples and established guidelines for handling such relationships through decisions.

In case of Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of the consolidation, the Supreme court was the first to acknowledge live-in relationships as being acceptable (1978). According to the court, a live-in relationship between consenting adults is permissible under Indian law if the conditions for marriage, such as the legal marriageable age, consent, and soundness of mind, are satisfied. No law either authorizes or forbids such connections.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2006 case of Lata Sing v. State of UP that although live-in relationships are unethical, they are not against the law.

Living together is a right to life protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court ruled in the well-known case of S. Khusboo v. Kanniammal and Anr (2010). Despite being viewed as immoral by society, this decision means that living together is not illegal.

In Indra Sarma v. VKV Sarma (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that is not illegal for two people who are not already married to be in a relationship together.

The same kind of statement was made in the decisions of Badri Prasad v. Deputy Director Consolidation (1978) and SPS Balasubramanian v. Suruttayan (1993), stating that if a man and a woman live together for an extended period of time, the law will presume they are legally married unless the contrary can be shown. Marriage is assumed to be strongly in favor, but this presumption is arbitrable, and the burden of proof rests with the party that disputes it. Also, the offspring of such a union would be entitled to inherit the parent’s assets.

Right to a visa in a live-in relationship

In 2015, case of Svetlana Kazankina v. Union of India, the Supreme Court considered whether to grant a visa to an Uzbex national who was living with an Indian man. The respondents asserted that the denial of visa extensions was caused by the fact that the pertinent regulations only permit such extensions on marriage certificates, not in the case of live-in relationships. The Court stressed that the provisions that provide the extension of visas to foreigners who have been married in India are designed to ensure that these couples will have a lifetime of friendship, love, and loyalty. Since they are now a reality, the Court ruled that weddings and live-in relationships should not be treated differently when issuing a visa extension.