Legality of Live In Relationships in India

The concept of live in relationships is prevalent in modern times, all across the globe. This was not very common in the earlier times. In simple terms, live in is said to be a domestic cohabitation between an adult unmarried couple. This is a practice where adult couple lives together to know each other well before committing to a formal relationship. This is said to be one of the simplest relationships possible. The domestic cohabitation must be consensual and on mutual terms while entering into a live in relationship. Sometimes, there is a domestic cohabitation between an adult unmarried man and a married woman, mutually. However, the second case is commonly known as the practice of adultery. There are chances when an unmarried adult female enters into the domestic cohabitation with a married man, unknowingly and this is a punishable act under Indian Penal Code. This concept has been more revolutionised in the millennial era, where more couples are feeling confident in entering into such a kind of relationship, in order to know each other more and for the compatibility check.


Live in relationship is not an entirely new concept. People used to have such relationships in the previous times as well, just that they weren’t enough vocal and aware of the same. In recent times, couple set aside the taboo and stand up for what appeals to them the most. Speaking in the legal terms, live in relationships are the kind of arrangements where unmarried couples decide to conduct a long term relationship that’s more like a marriage. We don’t have explicit laws pertaining to the very status of live in relationships in India. The status is pretty obscure and there’s no act per se, that regulates the very process and talks about rights and duties of the couple. There have been varied opinions regarding the status of live in, where once the Honourable Supreme Court opined that a couple cohabitating together for a long time, shall be considered or presumed as legally married unless proven otherwise. There have been subject matter differences as well.

Factors responsible for change

  • Growing Educational standards
  • Globalisation
  • Freedom of speech and expression
  • Fundamental rights and liberty
  • Universal conventions
  • International regulations
  • Human Rights charter

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There is a need to understand the line of demarcation between concepts like adultery and live in relationships. There are certain stringent aspects one needs to know about, before committing to any such relationship. There was the famous case of Indra Sarma vs. VKV Sarma, where the Supreme Court opined certain requisites and factors. As per the court’s ruling, a domestic cohabitation between an unwed adult male and an unwed adult female, is the simplest form of relationship. Mutual consent is the most important aspect while entering into such relationships.

However, the live in relationships were first acknowledged in the Domestic Violence Act of 2005, in section 2(f), that speaks of domestic relationship. But this term hasn’t been categorically defined in Indian laws yet. There have been several case laws that differ in factual circumstances and subject matter.

In the above mentioned case, the Supreme Court has issued guidelines about

  • Duration of relationship period
  • Shared household and other responsibilities
  • Shared financial arrangements
  • Facilities of household
  • Sexual relationships
  • Children and their rights

Intention of establishing such relationships