Legality of Live in relationships:
In the case of Indra Sarma vs V.K.V.Sarma, (‘MANU/SC/1230/2013’); the Supreme Court held that “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.”
Domestic Violence Act:
Sec 2 (f) of the Domestic violence Act, 2005 defines the term “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;
According to Section 2 (f), even a Live in relationship can be treated as equal as a marriage as it falls under the definition of a domestic relationship. To eliminate any ambiguity the Supreme Court in the case of Indra Sarma (Supra) laid down the “Guidelines for testing under what circumstances, a live-in relationship will fall within the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage” under Section 2(f) of the DV Act. The guidelines, of course, are not exhaustive, but will definitely give some insight to such relationships.
(1) Duration of period of relationship
Section 2(f) of the DV Act has used the expression “at any point of time”, which means a reasonable period of time to maintain and continue a relationship which may vary from case to case, depending upon the situation.
(2) Shared household
The expression has been defined Under Section 2(s) of the DV Act and, hence, need no further elaboration.
(3) Pooling of Resources and Financial Arrangements
Supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so as to have a long standing relationship, may be a guiding factor.
(4) Domestic Arrangements
Entrusting the responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or up keeping the house, etc. is an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.
(5) Sexual Relationship
Marriage like relationship refers to sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for emotional and intimate relationship, for procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring etc.
Having children is a strong indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage. Parties, therefore, intend to have a long-standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting them is also a strong indication.
(7) Socialization in Public
Holding out to the public and socializing with friends, relations and others, as if they are husband and wife is a strong circumstance to hold the relationship is in the nature of marriage.
(8) Intention and conduct of the parties
Common intention of parties as to what their relationship is to be and to involve, and as to their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.
MAINTENANCE OF A WOMAN IN A LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP:
Indra Sarma vs V.K.V.Sarma,(‘MANU/SC/1230/2013’);
• Appellant and respondent were working together in a private company. The Respondent, who was working as a Personal Officer of the Company, was a married person having two children and the appellant, aged 33 years, was unmarried.
• Constant contacts between them developed intimacy and in the year 1992, appellant left the job from the above-mentioned Company and started living with the respondent in a shared household.
• Appellant’s family members, including her father, brother and sister, and also the wife of the respondent, opposed that live-in-relationship.
• She claimed for the maintenance of Rs.25,000/- per month regularly as being provided earlier or in the alternative to pay the permanent maintenance charges at the rate of Rs.25,000/- per month for the rest of the life;
The court held that the appellant, having been fully aware of the fact that the respondent was a married person, could not have entered into a live-in relationship in the nature of marriage. All live-in- relationships are not relationships in the nature of marriage.
The appellant’s status was that of a mistress, who is in distress, a survivor of a live-in relationship which is of serious concern, especially when such persons are poor and illiterate, in the event of which vulnerability is more pronounced, which is a societal reality. Children born out of such relationship also suffer most which calls for bringing in remedial measures by the Parliament, through proper legislation. if any direction is given to the respondent to pay maintenance or monetary consideration to the appellant, that would be at the cost of the legally wedded wife and children of the respondent, especially when they had opposed that relationship and have a cause of action against the appellant for alienating the companionship and affection of the husband/parent which is an intentional tort.
1. Ms. S. R. Ranjitha, B.A., B.L., Advocate practicing at Madras High Court, with 5 years of experience in Family and Property matters.
2. Sarfaras Feroz, 4th Year student of BBA, LLB (Hons) at Saveetha School of Law, SIMATS, Chennai.