There has been a heated debate regarding the social, moral, constitutional, and personal acceptability of the practice of a man and a woman living together under the same roof. The debate has been flowing through the quarters of intellectuals, legislators, judges, activists, and moderates. The Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court under Hon’ble Justice Pankaj Bhandari was hearing such a case in which a married man, aged 31 years was living with an unmarried woman aged 29, and the both of them sought protection to their life and liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution from the Hon’ble court.
Hon’ble Justice Bhandari cited the famous case of D. Velusamy versus. D. Patchaiammal in which the Hon’ble apex court had laid down that if even one of the live-in-partners is already married to another individual, the constitutional validity of their live-in-relationship cannot be deemed legal. The basic institution of marriage is founded on the principle of trust and loyalty. The practice of infidelity, although decriminalized by the annulment of section 497, does qualify as a fit ground for the breakdown of marriage as it is socially and morally unacceptable. Therefore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has mentioned at least two criteria that have to be fulfilled if two people have to be in a live-in-relationship:
- The couple has to hold each other as spouses before the society which means in the same respect and status as they would have done to each other if they were married
- Both the individuals have to be qualified for marriage which includes being adults and already unmarried.
Following the same guidelines, the Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court has refused to recognize the relationship of the couple as legally valid. However, the protection of life and liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is universally available to all residents of India irrespective of the legal validity of their actions as long as the annulment of such rights has been mandated by the law of the land.
Previously, a similar case was being heard by the Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court in which a married woman and an unmarried man had been living together and sought the protection of their rights. Hon’ble Justice Vivek Puri deemed the nature of their relationship as illegal. He instructed the Senior Superintendent of Police, Faridkot to look into the protection of the basic rights of the couple and to shield them from the violence resulting out of social outrage.
A similar petition was submitted before the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court under Hon’ble Justice Piyush Sharma in which the couple had admitted that both of them had been married to different individuals but had been living with each other for the past five years after having separated from their partners. However, the court observed that such a separation had taken place only on a unilateral basis and the separation had no legal validity. The statement of the woman, that she had been married off against her wishes could not be taken as a valid excuse for not following the guidelines laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court regarding the legality of live-in-relationships.
Hon’ble Justice Satish Kumar Sharma declared in the Hon’ble single bench of Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court that it is the responsibility of the state police to protect the life and liberty of every individual under section 29 of the Rajasthan police Act 2007. The police will be instructed to do their job. However, a married man living with an unmarried woman is not to be accepted by either the law or society. Therefore, such a relationship cannot be granted constitutional recognition.