Live-in relationships not a sin; frame laws to protect women in such relationships, says Supreme Court

Live-in relationships not a sin; frame laws to protect women in such relationships, says Supreme Court

Expressing its discontent on the absence of any express statutory provision to regulate live-in relationships upon termination, since these were not in the nature of marriage and not recognized by law, a landmark judgment has been pronounced by a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan.

The bench held that a live-in relationship is neither a crime nor a sin. It has asked the Parliament to frame laws for protection of women in such relationships and children born out of these. The apex court also framed guidelines for bringing live-in relationships within the expression "relationship in the nature of marriage" under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The apex court bench said though socially unacceptable in this country, a live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin and it is an extremely personal decision to marry or not to marry, or to have a heterosexual relationship and therefore the court felt that there was a need for a legislation as it was the woman who invariably suffers because of the breakdown of such a relationship. The apex court bench also gave examples of various countries that had started recognizing such relationships. It said the Parliament should give this issue a serious consideration and bring in proper legislation or make a proper amendment to the Act, so that women and the children born out of such kinds of relationships can be protected, though such a relationship might not be a relationship in the nature of a marriage.

The apex court understood the fact that the legislature, of course, cannot promote pre-marital sex, though, at times, such relationships are intensely personal and people may express their opinion, for and against; but according to the court, such relationship may endure for a long time which can lead to dependency and vulnerability. It said that there is a need for adequate and effective protection, especially to the woman and children born out of live-in-relationship considering the increasing number of such relationships.

The bench, however, made it clear that maintaining an adulterous relation, polygamy, or a relationship by way of a bigamous marriage cannot be said to be a relationship in the nature of marriage and would not come within the ambit of live-in relationship which is to be protected by law.