Live in relationship, is it illegal?

In recent times, the judiciary has faced much confusion and procedural intersections of different laws in an attempt to provide a distinct conclusion to cases related to live in relationships and marriages. A lot has been brought front to the mass media, and a lot has been changed in the legality of different matters related to the given subject. Recently a case has attracted large attention from the public in the state of Punjab. Gulza Kumari vs The State of Punjab. Gulza Kumari, a 19 year old female, and Gurwinder Singh, a 22 year old male, a runaway couple, residents of Tarn Taran district in Punjab, had filed a petition in Punjab High Court seeking protection from the danger placed forth by Kumari’s parents residing in Ludhiana. In their petition, they had mentioned that they were in a live in relationship intending to get married shortly after. They further stated that the couple couldn’t get married yet because of the fact that the documents serving as the age proof for Kumari was in the possession of her family who were unwilling to authorize this marriage. The case gained massive attention after Justice HS Madaan said that the couple was seeking a legal approval by this petition for their live in relationship. He further termed this act as morally and socially unacceptable and hence no protection order for the petition was to be passed. Previously the judges had also stated that authorizing such relationships tend to hamper the very social fabric our society is built upon. The reason for such mass attention towards this case is that the dismissal of the case and the reasons provided for the same are conflicting with the decisions taken by the Supreme Court. In 2018, the Apex Court had come to the decision that an adult couple had the right to live together even without marriages. Relating to the case at hand, Kumari and Singh, both are to be recognized as an adult as they are aged above 18. Legality of live in relationships also found recognition in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005. A live in relationship between two adults do not amount to any offence. Although the society perceives a live in relationship to be of sexual nature, and according to subjective social concepts, sexual relations are only to exist between married couples, a law cannot be imposed forbidding such relations as that falls under the various freedoms which adds to the dignity of a citizen of the country. However, when it comes to married people, there is a rise in the demand to state legal boundaries. According to Section 497 of the IPC, sexual relations with a married person without the consent of his/her partner amounts to the offense of adultery. The offence of adultery was previously seen as a criminal offence. In September 2018, the Apex Court stated adultery to be unconstitutional and struck it down. Since then adultery is seen as a ground for civil issues but is not perceived as a criminal offence since then. The basic idea of bigamy or polygamy has been illegal since a long time. But what is the status of a live in relationship between 3 people in the eyes of law ? Polygamy became illegal in India in 1956. But no such stand has been made for or against a live in relationship involving more than two people. Section 44 of Special Marriage Act of 1954 applies to all Indians regardless of their caste and religion, have distinct punishments for bigamy and imposes penalty under Section 494 and 495 of the IPC. For muslims, any muslim male committing bigamy under the law of nikah is not invalid and hence not an offence. But the idea of premarital sexual interactions are considered forbidden according to muslim law. In certain discussions taken up by the legal body, unprotected sexual interactions may often lead to pregnancy but what if such a case arises in a live in relationship scenario. The status of the child is something very difficult to decide. Hence, after years of debates on this topic, it has been decided that law will consider any couple practicing a live in relationship for a considerably long period of time, to be married. (in case of inter-cast marriages, the Sprecial Marriage Act is applicable). Where as law had also stressed on the idea that an adult couple has the right to live together despite marriage. Coming to conclusive questions: Are live in relationships legal in India ? Can unmarried couples live together without the identity of being married assigned to them ? What are the rules of live in relationships ? Does the idea and law of polygamy apply to live in relationships as well ?..... Countless questions may arise. But there are no definite answers as of yet. The only definite answer known to us till date is that live in relationships are not protected by a uniform law regarding it stretching all over the country and that even the different levels of judiciary are not in agreement to a specific conclusion. The judiciary is functioning, and to say the least, it is evolving better than ever before. It has taken multiple decisions and stands defining and protecting the holy bond of marriage throughout the time it has been an independent active body. But the turn of the century has called for an immediate attention to the case of live in relationships, as opted by second millennial youngsters, which are still debated over. And it is one of the few topics, the judiciary should take an immediate decision and bring some uniformity throughout the country to stop a sudden rise in a variety of new cases which add to the pile of pending cases at hand which is increasing at a humongous rate after being struck by the deadly hands of corona.


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