India has witnessed a drastic change in the way the current generation perceives their relationships. It is no more taboo when a couple decides to move in together without signing on that dotted line which bonds you in a life long marriage……..well almost life long since that too may not be guaranteed.
A live-in relationship not only gives the couple an opportunity to know the partner without having to engage into a legally binding relationship, but also excludes the chaos of family involvement and lengthy court procedures in case the couple decides to break up.
However, what are the rules of the game? Is either of the couple allowed to move out for various reasons? The answer is very much yes, because the adults are fully aware of the consequences when they decide to get into this form of arrangement. Over the years, especially after the brutal Nirbhaya rape case, laws were changed overnight to facilitate easier process of registering rape complaints. Unfortunately the same has been misused by some women who have approached police to file rape charges on their exes if the relationship fails.
In a recent High Court judgement from the state of Himachal Pradesh, there will be no rape cases filed if a live-in relationship breaks down. While disposing off a matter, the High Court has clarified that in the event of not being able to get married after the breakdown of the live-in relationship, a case cannot be made under the section of rape.
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Following this order, Himachal Pradesh Police Department too has also made it clear that they won’t be charging men under rape after a woman approaches them when her relationship goes sour. Himachal Pradesh Director General of Police, Sita Ram Maradi emphasised and made this point clear in a press conference with the reporters in Dharamshala.
How Is Live-In Defined In India?
The Supreme Court in Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma defined live-in relationships in the below distinct ways:
- A domestic cohabitation between an adult unmarried male and an adult unmarried female
- A domestic cohabitation between a married man and an adult unmarried woman (entered mutually)
- A domestic cohabitation between an adult unmarried man and a married woman (entered mutually)
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A domestic cohabitation between an unmarried adult female and a married male entered unknowingly is punishable under Indian Penal Code as well. A domestic cohabitation between two homosexual partners, cannot lead to a marital relationship in India as no marital laws against homosexuality are defined yet.
The Apex Court in so many of its judgments has stated that if a man and a woman “lived like husband and wife” in a long-term relationship and even had children, the judiciary would presume that the two were married and same laws would be applicable.
In another instance, the Apex court even declared that for a man and a woman in love to live together is part of the right to life and not a “criminal offence”. Therefore, live-in relationships are legal in India.