The legality of Live-In Relationships

Live-In Relation

Indian society is ever-changing. Its custom and practices have seen loads of dynamism and a good influence from civilization. The Indian society has shown a forceful modification in its living patterns, from women working at night in BPOs/Call centers, folks moving to completely different states in search of higher education and employment, to millennials taking cabs rather than shopping for cars. Folks within the society have opened up their minds to the thought of the western way of living – a freelance way aloof from cultural and family boundaries. 

One such modification is within the outlook of how folks see their relationships. Feeling of belongingness and being treasured is what the general public wish for, however, the tie that wedding binds is simply too binding for them. And another may be a relationship that resembles a wedding but not its obligations and responsibilities. This can be when live-in relationships come into the picture. 


A live-in relationship is an arrangement between the parties to cohabit together on a long-term or permanent basis in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship. It is only a briefing between the parties; once a celebration to a live-in- relationship determines that he/she doesn’t want to measure in such a relationship, that relationship comes to an end. Hence, it’s known as a walk-in & walk-out relationship.  Live-in-Relationship is neither against the law nor a sin; though it’s unacceptable to an extent within the Indian society. In a country like India, where marriages are considered as a social foundation to legitimize the connection between a person and a woman; the conception of Live-in-Relationship has created a brand-new dimension within the arena of men-women relationships.

Legal Recognition of the Live-In Relationship

There exists no uniform civil code in India and marriages are mostly ruled underneath the personal laws of each Individual. The conception of Live-In Relationships isn’t expressly recognized by the assembly but the Courts in India and once more whereas characteristic morality from the law has upheld the validity of such relationships keeping in mind the constitutional principles.

The Constitution of India has given basic rights and freedoms to the folks. Underneath article nineteen of the Constitution, Indian citizens have a basic right to freedom of speech and expression, and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India. Apart from this, text twenty-one of the Constitution confers the Right to life to each person. One’s desire to reside with a partner of their choice and to establish a relationship is ruled by much more than mentioned rights and freedoms. but it’s to be kept in mind that such rights and freedoms don’t seem to be absolute.

Difference between Live-In Relationship and a Marriage

Marriage, additionally known as matrimony, maybe a socially/ritually recognized union or contract between spouses that establishes certain rights and legal obligations towards one another. Considering the varied culture in our country, completely different laws are framed that lay down the procedures and tips for the correct execution of marriages in numerous religions. Wedding laws are framed to produce remedies for disputes arising out of matrimony in several religions. Individual Acts are framed for individual faith because of the various customs and traditions followed by everyone. In the case of inter-caste marriages, the Special Marriage Act is applicable.

Apart from maintenance underneath personal laws, Section one hundred twenty-five of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 additionally provides for maintenance put down alia a married person is unable to take care of herself. Women may look for extra maintenance aside from the upkeep received by her underneath the other law as per Section 20(1)(d) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV Act), 2005.


A live-in relationship in easy terms is explained as a relationship within the nature of a wedding where each partner gets pleasure from individual freedom and establishes a shared social unit while not being married. It involves continuous habitation between the parties with no responsibilities or obligations towards each other. There’s no law or ligature and consequently, either of the partners will walk out of the connection, as and once, they’re going to try and do, therefore.

There is no legal definition of a live-in relationship and so the position of such kind of relationships is additionally uncorroborated. Indian law doesn’t give any rights or obligations to the parties in a live-in relationship. The position of the children born through such a relationship is additionally unclear and so, the court has provided clarification to the conception of live-in relationships through numerous judgments. The court has munificently professed that any man and woman cohabitating for a protracted-term are going to be probable as wrongfully married underneath the law unless tried contrary.

Cases of Significance

In the landmark case of S. Khushboo v Kaniammal (2010), the Supreme Court held that a live-in relationship comes within the ambit of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Court further held that live-in relationships are permissible and the act of two majors living together cannot be considered illegal or unlawful.

In Lata Singh Vs. State of U.P. & Anr., the supreme court of India observed that a live-in relationship between two consenting adults of heterogenic sex does not amount to any offense (with the obvious exception of `adultery’), even though it may be perceived as immoral.    

It is to be noted that the Supreme Court has recently decriminalized adultery by its judgment in Joseph Shrine’s case.

In Indra Sarma vs V.K.V.Sarma, the Supreme Court observed that a Live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country. The decision to marry or not to marry or to have a heterosexual relationship is intensely personal


The steps taken by the judiciary are pragmatic in approach and a welcome step towards social acceptance of live-in relationships. Live-in relationships do give individual freedom, however certain laws are essential to chop back its disadvantages, because of the insecurities it carries with it. A live-in relationship even though it is recognized by the judiciary still lacks social group acceptance and continues to be a taboo. Correct legislative enactments are needed not solely to shield the rights and interests of the partners to such relationships but additionally to work out the varied different rights arising out of such relationships – such as right over property, tutelar rights of kids, etc.

Editor’s Note
With the modernization of the Indian society, topics like live-in relationships have gained importance, and new perspectives regarding the same have come forward. In this article, the author examines the legal validity of live-in relationships in India and provides landmark judgments related to the same. The author throws light on the major differences between marriages and live-in relationships and clears certain misconceptions on this matter.