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Author: Gargi Sanjay Lad, II Year of B.B.A.,LL.B(Hons.) From NMIMS School Of Law, Bangalore.

Living together as a couple outside of a legally recognised marriage is frowned upon in India, hence the stigma surrounding "live-in" relationships.   Nonetheless, for various reasons, such unions have become more common. In order to regulate the dynamics of this new social order, countless attempts have been made to integrate live-in relationships within the purview of various laws, such as those dealing to domestic abuse, maintenance, property, and the legal status of a child.  This article reviews many legal opinions on live-in partnerships in India to explain the law. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 recognises a relationship "in the form of marriage" if two people live together and show themselves as husband and wife for a long time. Children of such partnerships are lawful and can inherit what they and their parents earned for, but they cannot inherit Hindu families' communally owned property. Live-in relationships allow couples to spend more time getting to know one other, but this absence of commitment has its downsides too.

Maintenance is an all-encompassing concept whose applicability and advantages are not limited to married individuals. It is governed by many acts and statutes in accordance with the personal law of every religion, a general law that supersedes the personal law if it conflicts with requirements of the general law of the land, and special laws specifically pertaining to maintenance that have precedence over general laws.

Maintenance is a benefit granted to individuals based on particular conditions by a well-off party to a party that requires support for sustenance but lacks suitable means or source of income.

In the past, only married persons were eligible for maintenance, but as things have changed, those in live-in relationships are also eligible. The husband was expected to provide for his wife, as most women had no means of income and were fully dependent on men. As time progressed, women began to live independently, no longer requiring their man's support, but instead assisting him to maintain a living during dispute processes.

The laws that control us have changed as a result of shifting dynamics and evolution, but the law does not define and recognise live-in relationships to incorporate them in statutes. Throughout these years, women earned rights but not freedom. The rights granted exist only on paper and in books; the proper application has not yet occurred. Supply of maintenance by the male is not required for every independent woman, but if she requires it due to a lack of finances in a live-in relationship, such alliance is not recognised by law because it is still not socially acceptable.



A somewhat comparable arrangement is known as "Maitray karars" also known as the "companionship contract," in which different people agree in writing to be friends, live together, and take care of one another. This brilliant substitution for bigamy was created in Gujarat and utilised in a few localities in Maharashtra during the 1960s and 1970s before becoming legally outlawed by the government. Typically, the man pays for all of the woman's expenses.

In the case of Minaxi Zaverbhai Jethva v. the State of Gujarat, the Gujarat High Court ruled that "Maitray Karar is unlawful since it violates public health and morality."

Live In Relationship A Tradition Of Garasia Tribe

In Rajasthan, among members of the Garasia tribe, it is customary for unmarried couples to live together. The technique known as dapa by these tribes is devoid of patriarchal norms and biases. Before getting married, partners often live together for years and even have children. Marriage is only an option if they have earned and saved sufficient funds to maintain and support their families, which might take decades for the Garasia, whose primary source of income is farming and manual labour.

In this tribe, women were superior as they went to the groom's house to "visit them," and chatted freely, but men were timid and reserved. This tribe was advanced in every manner and supported divorce for unhappy women. They thought that this decreased dowry-related fatalities and instances of mistreatment.

Non-marital cohabitation among Jharkhand tribes

A female from the tribes of Jharkhand like the Ho tribes, may choose a non-marital or live-in relationship with her male partner called a 'Dhuku' marriage. Due to the lack of societal acknowledgement of the connection, women in such relationships are known to as "Dhukua" or "Dhukni" and do not have any legal rights to property or other assets of the male partner. The couple must plan a wedding feast in the village and invite everyone from the community in order to receive social recognition, even if this is a very expensive endeavour. They therefore favour cohabitational relationships called "Dhuku" marriages.

While live-in relationships may not be morally right in the view of fundamentalist Indian society, they are not officially against the law. This custom still exists as a modernised adaption of western civilization but has long been a component of our society and history.


The United Kingdom: Live-in couples don't have the legal status similar to that of married couples.  Couples have no duty of aiding or supporting each other. Partners don't have the right to inherit their partner's property unless it's written in their partner's will. A letter from the Home Affairs Section to the House of Commons in 2010 says that when a relationship ends, two people who are not married do not automatically own each other's property. Under the Civil Partnership Act of 2004, couples who are not married pay taxes as if they were single. Still, the law tries to safeguard the rights of off springs who are born from these kinds of relationships. No matter if they are married or just living together, both parents are responsible for raising their children.

The United States: There is no definition in legal books or statutes of "cohabitation" in the U.S. Because of this, when a relationship ends, cohabitants do not have the same rights and financial protections as legally married spouses. So, unmarried couples in the United States could lose money if they don't have a formal agreement to protect them. In the United States, "palimony" means giving money to a female who lived with a male for a long time without getting married but was then left to survive all alone by him.


Several religions have personal laws that allow for maintenance requests and offer judicial processes for maintenance awards. Trials under section 125 CrPC are brief and open to everyone, regardless of caste, creed, or religion, in contrast to personal laws. The section in question was added to aid persons who require financial assistance but are unable to provide for themselves financially. Maintenance requests can be made before or after the legal proceedings; when made before, it is known as interim maintenance and can be changed after the case has been decided.

The Court has streamlined the interim maintenance process as a result of the lengthy delays in interim maintenance cases and the regular practice of parties hiding their financial position.

India has a wide variety of maintenance laws. Maintenance provisions can be found in:

  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954

  • The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

  • The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

  • The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956

  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

New Supreme Court of India Maintenance Guidelines

On November 4, 2020, a Supreme Court division bench outlined matrimonial maintenance criteria in Rajnesh v. Neha.

Maintenance Amount

The Court agreed that several formulas are used to determine the amount for maintenance. The interests of the applicant spouse and the responder spouse's financial capacity should be in balance. Yet, the Court issued the following principles for calculating maintenance:

  • Status and needs

  • Income and assets

  • The claimant's debts

  • Age and occupation

  • Housing

  • The parties' minor children's maintenance

  • Illness (if any)

In Mohd. Ahmad Khan vs. Shah Bano Begum & Ors., the court employed section 125 of the CRPC, carefully considered the facts and circumstances, and disregarded Shah Bano's personal law by supporting her beyond the iddah period. She sued him for maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which required him to maintain her until she remarried or died if she had no other means. After the iddah, Shah Bano's spouse left her and stopped paying alimony.   The Supreme Court and Madhya Pradesh High Court granted Shah Bano support for entire life under Section 125 of the CrPC. As the CrPC pertained to all citizens and Muslim personal law wasn't relevant, the Supreme Court ruled that she may obtain help under its guidelines. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 mitigated Shah Bano's impact. This act mandated maintenance for Muslim women regardless of their personal law, if they are unable to support themselves.


A couple should be considered as a married couple with all the rights and obligations that go along with marriage if their relationship or cohabitation lasts for a significant amount of time or for a fair amount of time. Since that live-in relationships are meant to avoid marital responsibilities, it seems unusual to include them under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, where the husband is compelled to pay maintenance and succession. Giving a wife and a live-in partner equal rights would encourage bigamy and pose a conflict of interest. When we look at the masses that make up India, there is no correlation between live-in relationships and the approval of Indian society, other from the fact that such relationships are not sanctioned by the law and are only socially acceptable in major cities. Such unions are expelled by society without receiving any legal aid.

A man and a woman who are conventionally both unmarried, engage into a live-in relationship when they decide to cohabitate without getting legally wed. This is widespread in large urban populations, where people who work at the same location believe it is advantageous to live separately and enjoy life without getting married. In any instance, the issue arises when a child is conceived from such a union. In addition to questions regarding the veracity of such children, questions over their authority and legacy have begun to appear frequently.


The phrase "the rights of a male partner" is contentious among men's rights advocates and courts. Now, only women can receive spousal support from their male live-in partner. The judgement of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Anr., the court assumed and stated that men invariably begin and maintain live-in relationships. Although this partnership is founded on gender equality, the intended justice is a long way off.


Marriage is protected by Indian law and culture. As was previously said, marriage in India is regarded as a sacrament. It is stated that live-in relationships are a substitute for marriage,

it differs from marriage in several ways.

Marriage is a much greater commitment than a live-in relationship, which is typically viewed as a "walk-in, walk-out" arrangement. In such unions, there are no obligations and no legal link, but marriage is an eternal bond. According to Hindu wedding traditions, a wedded pair would remain together for seven lifetimes. It is called ' Saat janam ka saath'.

In Live-in partnerships, neither spouse is responsible for the other's financial commitments, unlike in Marriage. The partnership might be dissolved immediately, but in order to dissolve a marriage, one must endure lengthy, laborious, and costly divorce proceedings.

Some individuals are not wholly opposed to marriage, but they view cohabitation as a trial run towards marriage. Although they have great and genuine intentions, it frequently results in a number of problems and obstacles.


Legislative Framework

  • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution grants to all its citizens “right to life and personal liberty” which means that one is free to live the way one wants.

  • Section 125 of The Code Of Criminal Procedure provides for claiming maintenance by wives, children, and parents from a person on which they are dependent and are unable to maintain themselves. Though the amendment was not incorporated in the Cr. P.C., such relationships were brought into ambit of domestic relationship.

  • Section 24 in The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 :Maintenance pendente lite and expenses of proceedings states “Where in any proceeding under this Act it appears to the court that either the wife or the husband, as the case may be, has no independent income sufficient for her or his support and the necessary expenses of the proceeding, it may, on the application of the wife or the husband, order the respondent to pay to the petitioner the expenses of the proceeding, and monthly during the proceeding such sum as, having regard to the petitioner's own income and the income of the respondent, it may seem to the court to be reasonable”

  • Section 18 (1) of The Hindu Adoptions And Maintenance Act, 1956 talks about Maintenance of wife.―(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a Hindu wife, whether married before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be entitled to be maintained by her husband during her life time.

  • Section 4 of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 talks about the order for payment of maintenance.

  • Section 3 (b) of the Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956, which reads as under: "in all cases, provisions for food, clothing, residence, education and medical attendance and treatment; in the case of an unmarried daughter, also the reasonable expenses of an incident to her marriage." The laws regarding maintenance laid down the duty of a man to provide maintenance to his parents, wife, and children. The general meaning of maintenance means to support or sustenance. The term maintenance is not defined in the marriage laws of any of the religious communities.

  • Section 2 (f) of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 “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.

  • Section 20 of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 talks about Monetary reliefs - (1) While disposing of an application under sub-section (1) of section 12, the Magistrate may direct the respondent to pay monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as a result of the domestic violence and such relief may include, but not limited to-

(d) the maintenance for the aggrieved person as well as her children, if any, including an order under or in addition to an order of maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) or any other law for the time being in force.


The Maharashtra Government Proposal, 2008

In 2008, Maharashtra, following the recommendations of the Malimath Committee, initiated

an aborted attempt to amend Section 125 Cr. P. C. which brought the issue of legal status of live-in relations into the public gaze. The move was construed pattern as an attempt to confer

legal status on secondary unions of men as well as legalize live-in relations of the modern kind in which young men and women choose to enter non-marital heterosexual relations prior

to entering a long-term committed stated a marriage tie.

In June, 2008, The National Commission for Women recommended to Ministry of Women and Child Development made suggestion to include live in female partners for the right of maintenance under Section 125 of Cr. P. C.

Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath Report

Definition of the word ‘wife’ in Section 125 of Cr. P. C. be amended to include a woman who was living with the man like his wife for reasonable long period.

Section 494 of the I.P.C be suitably amended to the effect that if the man and woman were living together as husband and wife for a reasonable long period the man shall be deemed to have married the woman according to the customary rites of either party.

They recommended for the amendment of Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code to include women in a void marriage or women in live-in relationship to claim maintenance.


  • In the case of Ajay Bhardwaj v. Jyotsna, The court awarded alimony to a woman who was living together. Nonetheless, only the woman may obtain support under the PDV Act of 2005. The PDV Act of 2005 does not grant any relief to men who cohabitate with women.

  • The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Indira Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma that cohabitation or marriage-like relationships are not a crime or a sin, despite being socially unacceptable in this country, and that there is a general assumption of marriage between them as their live-in relationship has endured for so long and cannot be characterized as a "walk in and walk out" relation. Guidelines for including live-in relationships within the definition of "relationship in the form of marriage" under The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, were developed by a bench led by Justice K. S. Radhakrishnan. This case ruled in favour of mainteneace to ensure safety of the woman and any child (if born).

  • In S. Khushboo V. Kanniammal and Others: In this instance, the court ruled that cohabitation is a fundamental human right and is therefore not 'illegal.' The court ruled that cohabitation is not unlawful under the law, even though it is regarded sinful by the orthodox Indian community.


Currently, women's rights are being raised and heard; thus, there is a movement to grant a woman in a live-in relationship a maintenance order from her partner. Live-in relationships may resemble weddings, but they are distinct from the institution of marriage. When a person enters into a matrimonial obligation, they may not necessarily do so willingly; this may be the result of family pressure, and even in modern times, some do so to receive dowry and property.

Marriages are legally sanctioned and obligatory unions in which both spouses are compelled to undertake duties towards each other, either because of societal conventions or because the union is between two families and not two individuals. Live-in relationships differ from weddings at the point where two individuals opt to live under the same roof for the purpose of getting to know each other better prior to entering marital obligations; when this relationship is ended, there are fewer legal repercussions and penalties. People evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of cohabitation, they must have consistent salaries sufficient to sustain themselves financially, and only then establish a live-in relationship. Today, every woman who is capable of making independent selections and is financially secure considers the concept of a live-in relationship, which is still socially unacceptable. In order to take such a significant step in terms of contemporary societal ideals, she is well aware of the consequences if the relationship fails. In today's changing society, women are well off; therefore, asking a guy for maintenance when she can support herself seems exploitative and a misuse of the man's rights.

According to recent judgements by the court ruling for maintenance, husbands are granted maintenance after a hassle of several years. The law focuses primarily on the wife's right to maintenance and numerous special statutes have been enacted addressing females' entitlement to maintenance and support, but there are no provisions that protect the husbands other than Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Under The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, only the woman may file for maintenance. It does not provide relief to men in live-in relationships.

Live-in relationships have no legal repercussions, which is why couples choose them before to marriage to avoid the divorce process if it doesn't work out. If separation has no legal consequence, then it should have no legal advantage either.

Nonetheless, in quintessential India, live-in relationships have no moral worth; we still consider two individuals living under the same roof without marrying to be unethical, despite the fact that this trend decreases divorce, dowry deaths, marital rapes, etc.


There is an urgent need to acknowledge live-in relationships through legislation that would grant all concerned parties rights and impose obligations and duties, thereby confining the scope of such partnerships.

Therefore, the following are few recommendations:

The fundamental framework of tradition that predominates in Indian conventional culture should be taken into consideration when crafting the law on live-in partnerships.

The need of the current time is to enact a new legislation which grants live in relationships a legal status but all the benefits of a marriage needn’t be granted as all the disadvantages of marriage are not faced.

These couples should have written agreements signed prior to cohabitation period to avoid any legal issue arising with joint property or bank accounts if any, division of daily expenses and how their own assets are not a part of division at the end of the relationship if it occurs. This needs to be done to avoid legal hassles later.

A married individual moving in with another single individual without divorcing their spouse claiming to be in a live-in relationship should not be given legal sanctity. There should be some reasonable restrictions in the enactment which protect the rights of the affected party. Laws in the U.K do not bind couples in a live in to support one another, nor do they give them the same recognition as married couples. Since the Indian constitution is an amalgamation of foreign constitutions along with the British constitution, we should take inspiration from this law of the U.K as well.


In India, the legal status of live-in relationships has been evolving and shaped by the Supreme Court's many rulings. It is time for efforts to be made to adopt a legislation on live-in relationships with explicit provisions regarding the time required to give the relationship legal status, registration, and the rights of parties and children born from it.

One of the ramifications of divorce is that women become eligible for maintenance payments. Because of this, she is able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle beyond the divorce and they are both able to feel secure in their financial futures. Maintenance payments are set by the courts and can vary widely depending on the specifics of each case. Having this protection in place helps ensure that justice is served fairly and, if necessary, clarifies previously established protections by strengthening the corresponding provisions.


  1. Minaxi Zaverbhai Jethva v State of Gujarat [2000] 4 SCT 335

  2. The Special Marriage Act, 1954

  3. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

  4. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

  5. The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956

  6. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

  7. Rajnesh v. Neha 2020 594 SC

  8. S. Khushboo V. Kanniammal and Others 2010 CRI. L. J. 2828, AIR 2010 SC 3196

  9. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, 1950

  10. Section 24 in The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

  11. Section 18 (1) of The Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956

  12. Section 4 of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986

  13. Section 3 (b) of the Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956

  14. Section 2 (f) of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

  15. Section 20 of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

  16. Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath Report VOLUME I March 2003

  17. Ajay Bhardwaj v. Jyotsna, (2017) 1 HLR 224

  18. Indira Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma (2013) 15 SCC 755


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