HYDERABAD: With the city adopting uber-culture and assimilating modern values, live-in relationships have crept comfortably into habitations of young workers. But, so is the number of cases wherein the partner simply calls it quit one day. Last year, as many as 28 cases were registered under section 493 (cheating on pretext of marriage in cohabitation) and 30 collectively under section 376 (rape) and section 420 (cheating) in police city limits.
Women activists say the number could be much higher as many of the victims don’t come out when they are cheated after living in cohabitation. Not only such couples have little legal protection from the authorities and often live in anonymity without revealing their relation, women are also ignorant of their rights and law which put them in disadvantage when their partner leaves.
According to Supreme Court verdict “Live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country.” In another case it has also declared, “living together is a right to life.” Further, the apex court also grants legal status and rights to a child born out of a live-in relationship.
Highlight what the a live-in relationship is in the eyes of law advocate Supriya Ghose says,”A man and woman, who are of the legal age and live like husband and wife even if they are not legally married, are seen equivalent to a married couple. If the man leaves his live-in partner, the woman has all the right to register a case against him and approach the family court for compensation. If they have a child, he/she is seen as a legitimate heir.”
Ghose adds, if a man gets into a live-in relationship by lying to the woman that he is unmarried, then in addition to section 493, a cheating case can also be evoked against him. A case of domestic violence can also be slapped against a live-in partner if he tortures the woman. Further, since such a relationship is seen as a “relationship in the nature of marriage”, if a married man enters into cohabitation with another woman, he can also be booked for bigamy, and his live-in can get maintenance. “Such intimate relationships are very risky and fragile, more so in a conservative society like ours,” Ghose says.
Legal illiteracy and ignorance among women in such relationships make space for legal loopholes and pave way for the victims to be taken for a ride by lawyers when they knock the court’s door. For instance, if a woman takes too much time in approaching the police, there are chances that the medical report will be able to trace any sexual activity and the accused might go scot free.
“In such case defendants try to prove the woman indecent and characterless. Further, several unscrupulous men take to the matrimonial sites and are on the look out of divorcees and widowed woman whom they try to trap and leave once their sexual needs are gratified,” the advocate says.
Legal illiteracy among police also comes to the fore in the fact that they register cases under section 376 rather than section 493. “When a woman complains that her live-in promised to marry her and which is why she got into physical relationship but later deserted her, we mostly register them under rape and cheating cases,” says the ACP. Further, sometimes the aggrieved party become vindictive and registers case under section 376 just to strengthen their case.
What to look out for before entering into a live-in relationship
Since cohabitation has got legal sanction, besides biological needs, financial and domestic needs are also to be taken into account in such relationship
Sex forms an integral part of live-ins, hence, it is important to get tests like, diabetes, HIV, impotency, etc,., to confirm that the partner is sexually healthy
In course of your relationship have some proofs like joint bank accounts, gas connections, rent agreement, etc., to authenticate that you have been living with you partner
Reveal your live-in status to friends and acquaintances
Section 493 in IPC
“Cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage.”
Every man who by deceit causes any woman, who is not lawfully married to him, to believe that she is lawfully married to him and to cohabit or have sexual intercourse with him in that belief, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine
Guidelines for live-in couples as set by Supreme court
- The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.
- They must be of legal age to marry.
- They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a ‘significant period of time’. (The Bench underlined the words “for a significant period of time” without specifying any time period).
- The couple must have lived together in a “shared household”, as defined in Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005