Live-in Relationship in India: All you need to Know

By | May 5, 2020
Live-in Relationship in India

The article ‘Live-in Relationship in India’ aims at analyzing the concept of Live-in Relationship with respect to society in India. The only thing constant in this world is the change.  There has been a drastic change in the living pattern of society in recent years.  Pre-marital sexual intercourse is becoming more and more common these years and the frequency of the live-in relationships is constantly increasing. The Concept of the Live-in Relationships and Pre-Marital Sex have faced constant criticism from some sections of the society. Unlike Marriage, the couples living in the Live-in Relationship live together like married couples without getting married to each other.

Couples in Live-in Relationship live together under the same roof which resembles with the married couples. Live-in Relationships can be considered to be a type of cohabitation. Various parts of the society in India believe that sexual relations between a man and woman are legitimate only if they are married in accordance with the prevalent marriage laws in India[1]. Any type of relationship other than the marriage is considered as illegitimate in India.

Reasons for opting Live-in Relationship

The one of the most common reason before couples coming in Live-in Relationship is that the couples are choosing to check the compatibility of their partners before entering into the legal bond of marriage. Similarly, the other most common reason before the huge number of couples entering into a live-in relationship is that it saves them from the family drama and lengthy court procedures at the time of braking up i.e., divorce.

There are so many other reasons also because of which an increasing number of couples are choosing to enter into a live-in relationship while living in a society like India where it is evident that marriage is considered as sacramental and all other forms of relationship between a man and a woman other than the marriage are considered as illegitimate and criticized by so many people.

Due to such a huge increase in the number of couples choosing for a live-in relationship in India, the concept of live-in relationship has become a topic of debate. However, various instances have been recorded in the past where the child born out of such relationships and the couples entering into live-in relationship remains vulnerable because of the non-acceptance of such relationships by the society and such relationships are kept out of the purview of the law.

Live-in Relationship and Law in India

In the recent years, various instances have been recorded where the partners in the live-in relationships have misused their partners as the couples living in the live-in relationship are not required to perform any duties and take the responsibilities of their partners. This chapter of the article aims at analyzing the rights of the partners living in live-in relationships in India.

Currently, there is no specific or particular law in India which deals with the matter associated with the live-in relationships or which governs the live-in relationships. No law till now has been laid down by the Parliament of India or no ordinance has been passed which deals with the rights, duties and commitments of the partners living in live-in relationships and the status of the children born out of such relationship.

Since no law has been laid down dealing with matters of live-in relationship; there is no specific definition of live-in relationship. Due to the unavailability of any definition of such a relationship, the legal status of such relationship is unverified. However, the Court through its various decisions has tried to provide some of the rights to the partners living in live-in relationships by interpreting and amending the present laws for providing protection against misuse of such partners. The Supreme Court in the case of Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma,[2]held that the domestic cohabitation between an adult unmarried male and an adult unmarried female. This is the simplest kind of relationship.

Domestic Violence Act: The legislature for the first time through the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 recognized the safety of women living in live-in relationships. The Act extended its protection to those women who are not legally married but are living with a male individual in a relationship which is similar to the ides of marriage.

Domestic relationship means 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 in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.[3] Tough the live-in relationship has not been defined in the Act but the Court through its various decisions have tried to include live-in relationship under the ambit of words used in the Act.

Criminal Procedure Code, 1973: Section 125 Cr.P.C. was incorporated in order to avoid vagrancy and destitution for a wife/minor children/old age parents, and the same has now been extended by judicial interpretation to partners of a live-in relationship.[4] Malimath Committee in the year 2003 submitted the report with the recommendation that the meaning of the term ‘wife’ under section 125 of Cr.P.C. should be amended.[5] On recommendation of the Malimath Committee report, a lady living in the live-in relationship for a sensible period of time can now get the status of wife for the purpose of this section.

The Court in the case of Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha held that partners living as husband and wife for a sensible period of time, a presumption would arise in favour of wedlock.[6] However, Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. deals with maintenance to divorced wives but in case of live-in relationship cannot be divorced.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Where a man and a lady live respectively for a long spell of time as a couple then there would be an assumption of marriage.[7]

Differences between Marriage and Live-in Relationships

The Institution of Marriage is a socially and ritually accepted union which is contractual in nature which further provides for the rights and obligations towards each other. On the other hand, there is no law or contract which can bind the partners of the live-in relations. Also, there is no law which provides the rights and obligations of partners of live-in relationship with each other. The laws associated with the Marriage in India provide the remedies in case of disputes arising out of the marital relationship. On the other hand, the legal status of a live-in relationship is unconfirmed.

Maintenance of Lady Partner: The right of the maintenance is available to the wives in India under all the Personal Laws of different religions. On the other hand, no religion has recognized or given acceptance to live-in relationships in India. That is why; there is no remedy available under the Personal laws for the women entering into live-in relationships in India. However, Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides the right for maintenance to the women irrespective of marriage.

Status of Children born out of Live-in Relationships

There is no legislation in India which comments on the legitimacy of the children born out of live-in relationships. However, the Supreme Court through its various decisions has held that the Child out of the Live-in Relationship shall be considered as legitimate if parents have lived together under the same roof for a considerable period of time. The Supreme Court for the first time in the case of S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan,[8] held that if a man and woman are living together under the same roof or cohabiting for some years, then it can be presumed under section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 that they were living together as husband and wife and the children born to then will not be considered as illegitimate.

The Supreme Court further held that according to Article 39 (f) of the Constitution of India, it is the obligation of the state to provide children with adequate safeguards and the required opportunity so that they develop in the proper manner.[9] The Supreme Court in the case of Tulsa v. Durghatiya,[10]held that the children born out of the live-in relationship will no longer be considered an illegitimate child. The only condition which must be fulfilled is that the parents of the child born out of live-in relationship must have cohabited under the same room for the significant period of time and this should not be a ‘walk in- walk out’ relationship.

In the case of Bharata Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan,[11] the court held that a child born out of a live-in relationship is legitimate under the eyes of the law and has the right to inherit the property of the parents. Therefore, it can be said that in absence of any specific legislation dealing with the issues of Live-in Relationship, the Court are taking a step forward for protecting the rights of the children born out of such relationships. The latest judgement related to this issue was delivered by Supreme Court in the case of Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun,[12]where the court held that irrespective of the relationship between the parents, the child born out of such relationship bill be innocent and shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges which are provided to children born out of the valid marriage.

However, the couples living in the live-in relationship are not allowed to adopt a child in accordance with the guidelines for Adoption of children notified by Central Adoption Resource Authority. This is the crux of amended section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

Conclusion and Judicial Response

Live-in Relationships in India has become one of the most debatable topics as a huge part of the society thinks that the concept of Live-in Relationships is a threat to the basic framework to the society of India. The Live-in Relationship in India cannot be considered as offence as there is no law prohibiting such types of relationship to the date. Also, there is no legislation in India which deals with the issues associated with the live-in relationship.

The Courts in India through its various decisions took the step forward for providing safeguard to those women who are the victims living in live-in relationships. The Judiciary by interpreting the current legislations have extended the protection of law to the victims of such relationships. Still, India has no legislation to deal with the issues of succession, maintenance, and guardianship etc. arising out of such a relationship.

However, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides protection to the women living in the live-in relationship. On the other hand, the Courts in India have never taken the steps to legalise the live-in relationships by directing the government to compulsorily require an agreement between the unmarried couples as it may result into conflict with the basic structure of society in India.[13] And only those live-in relationships are considered to come under the ambit of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 where the partners have cohabited together for a sensible period of time.

It is the duty of the Court to ensure that the law is up to date and accommodated with regard to the changing scenario of the society.  The Court through its various decisions attempted to clear the current position of law with regard to a live-in relationship yet it remained unclear as to what is the present legal status of Live-in Relationship in India.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to codify the rules and regulations and the implementation of such rules and regulations associated with the live-in relationship in India. Hence, the author is of the view that there is a need to implement separate legislation or rules and regulations associated with the rights and obligations of partners of live-in relationship and the rights of the child born out of such relationship.


[1] Lawrato, ‘Live-In Relationship’, The Better India (March 3rd, 2018).

[2] Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma, 2014 (1). RCR (Crl). 179. (SC)

[3] Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act 2005, section 2(f).

[4]  Ajay Bhardwaj v. Jyotsna, 2016 SCC OnLine P&H 9707.

[5] Justice Malimath Committee Report, available at https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/criminal_justice_system_2.pdf, p.p. 181-194.

[6] Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha, (2011) 1 SCC 141.

[7] Indian Evidence Act 1872, section 114.

[8] S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan, AIR 1994 SC 133.

[9]Astha Saxena, ‘Live-In Relationship and Indian Judiciary’, SCC OnLine (23rd January 2019).

[10] Tulsa v. Durghatiya, (2008) 4 SCC 520.

[11] Bharata Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan, AIR 2010 SC 2685.

[12] Revanasiddappa v Mallikarjun, (2011) 2 UJ 1342.

[13] Astha Saxena, ‘Live-In Relationship and Indian Judiciary’, SCC OnLine (23rd January 2019).


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  • Pradeep kumar says:

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