Status of Live-in relationship in India

A Socio-Legal Study


The Indian Society has observed a drastic change in its living pattern in the past few years. People are opening their minds towards the idea of pre-martial sex and live- in relationships. However, this change has been continuously under criticism and highly discussed as such concepts lack legality and acceptance by the society. Unlike marriage, in live- in relationship couples are not married to each other but live together under the same roof that resembles a relation like marriage. To put it simply, the live-in relationship is a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple live together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. The reason behind people choosing to have a live-in relationship is to check the compatibility between couples before getting legally married.

Conceptual analysis of Live-in relationship:

In India there exists only one kind of relationship between an unrelated couple of a male and female which is termed as ‘Marriage’. Marriage is more of a sacrament and divine  concept, and is practiced as a ritual since ages. However, for number of reasons this concept is being unfastened from divineness. Sometimes marriages are forced on the couples. Therefore, the concept of live-in relationship is introduced in society as an alternative for marriage. However, presently it is no more an alternative but it is having its own stand in society. Under the practice of live-in relationship a man and woman, usually both unmarried, enter into an informal agreement to live together and cohabit without getting officially married. This is common in big cities where man and woman, while working at the same place, think it convenient and beneficial to live together and enjoy the life without taking the responsibility of marriage.

Judicial Approach:

The instances of live-in relationship are increasing in Indian society. Hence, the Supreme Court and High Court in scores of decisions have tried to explain the concept of live-in relationship. the verdicts of the courts varied from case to case as courts had to explain the concept in the light of facts present in each case. In Varsha kapoor v. Union of India[1], the Delhi High Court held that domestic violence is a human right issue and a female living in a relationship in the nature of marriage has right to file complaint not only against the husband or male partner but also against the relatives of husband or male partner. D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal[2] has observed that a distinction has been drawn between the “relationship of marriage” and the “relationship in the nature of marriage” by the Parliament and has provided benefits under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The question of legitimacy of child is also directly related to protection of women on this point apex court in Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant[3]  case said that the courts have consistently held that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage, when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years. However, such presumption can be rebutted by leading reliable evidence. On the same issue the court held that if a man and woman are living together for a long time as husband and wife though never married, there would be presumption of marriage and their children could not be called illegitimate.

The person in long-term live-in relationships may be presumed by courts to be as a married spouse. Such decisions, while being delivered for upholding the rights of the women, contradict the matrimonial laws. In India bigamy is illegal and it is unclear if either the man or the woman is already married and having a living spouse, in what sense a live-in relationship can be equated to a marriage. Same issue came before the Supreme Court in Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma[4], court held that in such circumstances the status of women will be that of concubine and she cannot ask for maintenance. Court further held that every live-in relationship is not a relationship in the nature of marriage falling within the definition of domestic relationship.

International Perspective:


The American legitimate history was then observer to a few consensual sex enactments, which prepared for living respectively contracts and their cousins, the “prenuptial arrangements”. The nation later systematized dwelling together by giving cohabiters basically similar rights and commitments as hitched couples, a circumstance like Sweden and Denmark. Those living respectively are not perceived as lawful guardians.

United Kingdom 

Live seeing someone are to a great extent secured by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 [9]. In spite of the fact that a man and lady living respectively in a stable sexual relationship are regularly alluded to as “precedent-based law life partners”, the articulation isn’t entirely right in law in England and Wales. The UK feel that live-in accomplices owe each other more than that to be deserving of the term.


The French National Assembly passed the Civil Solidarity Pact on Oct. 13, 1999. Live-in relationship is administered by common solidarity agreement in France. The common solidarity settlement is an agreement restricting two grown-ups of various genders or of a similar sex, so as to arrange their regular life; contractants may not be limited by another agreement, by marriage, kin or ancestry. Grown-up under guardianship can’t contract.

Conclusion & Suggestions:

As far as the above mentioned discussions, deliberations and debate is concerned, it is pertinent to mention here that there is no comprehensive law on live-in relationship in India. Judiciary plays prominent role in this context. Courts have recognised live-in relationship as legal but there arises various issues with regard to its acceptance by Indian society. Mass awareness is necessary. In addition to this, a comprehensive law on live-in relationship in India is the crying need of the hour.

[1] (170) 2010 DLT 166(DB)

[2] AIR 2011 SC 479

[3] 2010 VOL.9 SCC 209

[4] AIR 2014 SC 309


Shraddha Suman Sahu

                                                                                    Soa National Institute of Law,

                                                                        Bhubanewsar, Odisha

Disclaimer: The author bears sole responsibility for the accuracy of facts, opinions or view stated in the present blog.

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